Owing to electricity consumption in South Africa increasing rapidly since 1980, South Africa needs 40 GW of new power generation by 2025, about half of which should be nuclear energy, says State-owned power utility Eskom.
Eskom supplies about 95% of South Africa’s electricity and about 45% of Africa’s. Of its total installed net capacity of 40.5 GW (44.2 GW gross), coal-fired power stations account for 34.3 GW and nuclear accounts for 1.8 GW, notes nuclear power promoter the World Nuclear Association (WNA).
South Africa is part of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), which is a cooperation of the national electricity companies in Southern Africa under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The members of SAPP have created a common power grid between their countries and a common market for electricity in the SADC region, notes WNA.
SAPP was founded in 1995 and the total installed generating capacity in the SAPP countries is 54.7 GW, of which around 80% is South African, mostly coal-fired, and largely under the control of Eskom.
In 2008, Eskom power stations produced 230-billion kWh (TWh) of electricity (out of total South African electricity production of 239.5 TWh), of which the Koeberg nuclear plant generated 12.7 TWh – about 5.3% of total South African generation.
In 2011, the country produced 262.5 TWh – 243.4 TWh from coal, 13.5 TWh from nuclear energy and 5 TWh from hydropower. That year, it imported 12 TWh and exported 15 TWh.
Over the five years to March 2013, Eskom planned to spend R385-billion (around $50-billion) on new capacity – mainly coal- and gas-fired power plants, as well as on returning mothballed coal-fired power stations to service.
Eskom says the country remains heavily dependent on coal, with power plants built near the mines, and the two largest coal-fired power plants in the world under construction – 4 800 MWe each. Also, the country gets 40% of its oil/fuel needs from coal-to-liquids plants.
In October 2010, the Department of Energy released its draft Integrated Electricity Resource Plan (IRP) for 2010 to 2030. The IRP outlines the country’s electricity demand, how this demand might be supplied, and what it is likely to cost.
Its balanced scenario represents the best trade-off between least-investment cost, climate change mitigation, and diversity of supply, as well as localisation and regional development. The IRP requires 52 GW of new capacity by 2030, assuming 3.4 GW of demand-side savings.
After public consultation, the IRP was revised early in 2011 and passed by Cabinet in March. According to this scenario, South Africa’s generation mix by 2030 should include: 48% coal, 13.4% nuclear, 6.5% hydro, 14.5% other renewables and 11% peaking open cycle gas turbine.
Although nuclear is included in the energy mix only from 2023, a decision on this must be finalised as quickly as possible and a procurement process set up, says WNA. At least 9.6 MWe of new nuclear capacity by 2030 is included in the plan confirmed in mid-2011, significantly less than the 2007 target.
In December 2013, the projected 2030 demand was reduced by 6 600 MWe to no more than 61.2 GW.
In the May 2011 Budget Vote speech, the Energy Minister reaffirmed that 22% of new generating capacity by 2030 would be nuclear and 14% coal-fired. The budget also provided R586-million for the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa to continue with its central role as the anchor for nuclear energy research and development and innovation, says WNA.