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South Africa- financially ruinous coal and nuclear power proposals – will muck up post-Covid-19 recovery

New coal and nuclear power proposals undermine prospects of a post-Covid-19 economic recovery, Daily Maverick, By Anton Eberhard• 17 June 2020  

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s attachment to ‘clean coal’ and new nuclear as immediate options for a post-Covid-19 economic recovery would be comical if they were not financially ruinous. Their fixation on these non-competitive, non-commercial technologies is now wasting scarce public resources.

South Africa is beginning to see the consequences of an energy ministry trapped in the past, beholden to interest groups and oblivious to global innovations in energy technologies and markets. Submissions by the minister and his energy department to Parliament in the past month reveal an economically disastrous commitment to policy, procurement and investment options that have no hope of contributing to our post-Covid-19 economic recovery.

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) in its strategic and economic plans is promoting the role of nuclear energy (mainly small modular reactors) and clean coal (with carbon capture and storage), but these technologies are neither price competitive nor, in the case of small nuclear, are they currently commercially available.

In a presentation to Parliament on 26 May 2020, Minister Gwede Mantashe proposed several medium-term (6-12 month) interventions in response to the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. …….

In the same presentation, the minister proposed a number of interventions (also 6-12 months) to enhance electricity supply security, including acceleration of a nuclear build programme, conversion of Eskom’s diesel-fired turbines to gas and the building of a new oil refinery. None of these, of course, can be accomplished within a year and it’s highly unlikely that even contracts for these projects will be placed any time soon, if ever. Implementation of South Africa’s IRP electricity plan, which identifies wind, solar and storage as the next least-cost options to ensure electricity supply security, was evidently not regarded as a priority although – almost as an afterthought – it was offered as a long-term option.

Over the past weekend, DMRE launched a Request for Information (RFI) to commence preparations for a nuclear build programme. Of course, an RFI is non-binding (unlike a Request for Proposals, RFP, in a competitive tender or auction) and participants are perversely incentivised to put forward unrealistically attractive offers and prices which they’ll probably seek to alter when contracts are negotiated. In short, an RFI is not particularly helpful unless you don’t know what you’re doing and want technology and service providers to shape your procurement.

The minister has now appointed a new board chairperson, the retired nuclear chief officer of Eskom, an ex-British navy nuclear submariner, someone who continues, on social media, to rubbish renewable energy alternatives.

The minister has also entertained plans for expanded investment at the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA), despite the institution recording unprecedented financial losses. ……..

It’s time for a reality check. No country or private company currently offers commercially proven exports of land-based, small modular nuclear reactors. South Africa tried to develop one – the pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR) – but after spending more than R20-billion (in today’s money), the programme was closed after a decade without even a pilot demonstration plant being built.  …….. Clean coal is also a mirage. …….. https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-06-17-new-coal-and-nuclear-power-proposals-undermine-prospects-of-a-post-covid-19-economic-recovery/#gsc.tab=0

June 18, 2020 - Posted by | politics, South Africa

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