The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) on 23 November published a consultation paper for the procurement of 2.5GW of nuclear capacity. Nersa must review decisions by energy and mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe to procure additional generation capacity before they can be implemented.
Mantashe’s ministerial determination, published with the consultation paper, says Eskom will own the nuclear plants, either exclusively or in partnership with other entities, and buy power from the plants. The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy is responsible for procurement, which must be “fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective”.
The extension of the 1,860MW Koeberg nuclear power plant’s life was the only nuclear capacity scheduled for the period to 2030 in the Integrated Resource Plan published in October 2019. However, the document does contain a policy decision to “commence preparations for a nuclear build programme to the extent of 2,500MW at a pace and scale the country can afford because it is a no-regret option in the long term”.
Comments on the determination are due to be submitted to the regulator by 5 February 2021, after which Nersa will host online public hearings.
The capacity is intended to boost the country’s reserve margin to reduce load-shedding. Nersa said the loss of 11GW of coal capacity by 2030 would result in a baseload generation gap that would affect system stability through the loss of inertia. This would mean a bigger requirement for ancillary services such as battery storage and peaking plants.
The consultation is likely to trigger a lively debate. Nuclear power remains an especially heated topic in South Africa after attempts by former president Jacob Zuma to push through procurement of 9.6GW of nuclear power. Many stakeholders point out that nuclear has been consistently shown to be more expensive than a mix of renewable energy, gas and battery storage. Critics also point to long delays and cost overruns at nuclear projects around the world.
Proponents argue that the industry could have substantial benefits for South African companies operating in the nuclear supply chain. The country has a long history in the nuclear power sector and retains significant expertise.
South Africa Power Report 2020/21
Make sound investment decisions with African Energy’s South Africa Power Report 2020/21 – a comprehensive guide to the risks, realities, opportunities and threats associated with entering South Africa’s electricity industry.