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Economist calls for debate on SA's entire energy plan

Apr 28 2017 20:24
Liesl Peyper

Cape Town – South Africa’s entire energy programme – not only the procurement of nuclear power – needs to be reconsidered and publicly debated, said independent economic risk consultant, Rob Jeffrey. 

Speaking to Fin24 by phone, Jeffrey said the Western Cape High Court ruling on Wednesday, declaring government’s nuclear procurement plans to date unlawful and unconstitutional will most probably help prevent corruption “that are sometimes associated with such deals”.

READ: Nuclear judgment: what govt now needs to do 

“From an economic point of view, I think there’s no harm in delaying a nuclear build programme and subject it to greater public debate. But I don’t think the ruling is necessarily going to prevent nuclear or be the ‘final nail in the nuclear coffin’ as some say,” Jeffrey said. 

Nuclear and coal necessary for base-load power

He pointed out that although some people may think South Africa can delay major base-load energy sources until 2025 because of excess electricity there are a number of things that need to be taken into account. 

“If you want to complete certain power stations to have them come on stream by 2025 you have to order and get going within the next two years. That means putting out enquiries fairly soon to go through the processing of procurement.” 

READ: Eskom's Koko firm about SA's need for nuclear 

He also stressed that base-load energy can only be provided by coal-fired and nuclear power stations. 

According to Jeffrey, South Africa needs additional energy if it is to grow beyond 4%. “We will only have excess electricity if we don’t achieve higher growth rates. 

“At the moment the economy grows by less than 2%, and it is unlikely to rise beyond 2.8% but we need growth in excess of 4%. That will require policy changes and also additional electricity, particularly coming on stream from 2023 to 2030.” 

‘Don’t rush wind energy generation’

Jeffrey also cautioned that renewable energy, particularly wind energy, has major risk factors. 

“It has been proven overseas – there are possible cost increases which haven’t been factored in. It involves a technology with low efficiency and covers a low energy density, which means it takes up a huge amount of land. The land footprint is enormous in many environmentally sensitive and beautiful areas of South Africa.”  

READ: SA bets on gas, renewables for biggest chunk of energy capacity

There’s no need to rush ahead with wind energy either, Jeffrey said. “Certainly there is room to delay it and have a proper impact study done on the impact of wind – it should be subject to a major inquiry going ahead.” 

Read Fin24's top stories trending on Twitter:

nuclear energy  |  sa economy  |  renewable energy
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