Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Energy Mix Proposal Reduces Coal Use

The Department of Energy has drafted a plan that proposes nearly halving the share of coal in the country's energy mix to 48% by 2030, down from about 90% today, using nuclear power and renewable energy such as wind and solar to make up the difference. The proposal, with an estimated price tag of R860-billion ($125-billion), would expand the country's generation capacity by 52,248 MW over the next 20 years, up from almost 40,000 MW.

Nelisiwe Magubane
 Nelisiwe Magubane, right, Director General of the Department of Energy, is coordinating the effort. The proposal, called the "Integrated Resource Plan", will be up for discussion at public meetings in November and December and will then undergo a revision to reflect public input.  The government plans to adopt it as official policy in early 2011. 

Under the plan, the country's energy mix in 2030 would rely on nuclear for 14% of electricity, renewable energy for 16% and coal for 48%, with the remaining 22% coming from a mix of local and imported hydropower and different gas technologies. The turn toward nuclear would be a major shift in energy policy for South Africa, which currently has just one nuclear plant whose two reactors generate about 6% of its electricity. The government will consider opening nuclear power generation to the private sector to help cover the cost of building new plants, which can cost up to $15-billion depending on capacity.

The draft plan also analyses a "low-carbon scenario" that would include 36% coal-sourced electricity, 32% renewables and 12% nuclear. But planners found that programme would drive up costs by 50% and cut carbon emissions by just 10% more than the "balanced scenario" the draft plan endorses.

Magubane believes South Africa cannot afford to put green energy ahead of economic development and the country needs outside assistance in the fight against climate change. (Mail & Guardian, 10/17/2010)

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