Renewables must line up for energy race and show competitive spirit

Renewables must line up for energy race

Cost will always be a factor in determining SA’s power mix — nuclear needs to be given a run for its money

The announcement by Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi that the nuclear build programme is still on the table and the fact that previous international agreements will be renegotiated according to due legal process is at the centre of intense public discourse.

However, this focus is fast being overtaken as support for renewables gains momentum and the least-cost scenario (no nuclear) gets qualified support.

The outcome of the Integrated Resource Plan 2016 detailing the forward supply-demand balance is pending after further written submissions. We await the results of the adjudication and number-crunching of the final mix of different technologies and their respective market share requirements.

Although it is generally accepted that electricity will be decarbonised, the intense debate on the way forward as a mix of renewable and nuclear has gained momentum, with much diverse opinion among the proponents for the technologies.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR’s) “least-cost power option” excludes nuclear in its energy mix. This follows a detailed cost analysis of a few scenarios by its Energy Centre. The least-cost mix option comprises renewables, mainly wind and solar, and nonrenewable gas.

There has been little detailed cost-effect analysis of renewables internationally, but this has recently been provided by way of the German experience, which targets this specific mix. Germany has been referred to as a “lavish first-mover spender” that in 2016 resulted in about 32% of electricity from renewables (quite exceptional by global standards).

Equally important are the country’s plans to phase out nuclear by 2022. Electricity will also be decarbonised and Germany’s ambitious carbon emission targets are a decrease of 40% by 2020 (one of the boldest in the world) and 80% to 95% by 2050. Following Germany’s experience, there are a number of “second-mover” countries such as China, the US and India that are spending huge amounts on renewables.

An excellent discussion of this in Fortune magazine recently included an analysis of the effects of Germany’s spend on the renewables programme. To move solar and wind from niche technologies to mainstream has required significant subsidised spending that has resulted in visible signs of economic strain on the economy.

Read the full article on BusinessDay ⟶

Source: 21 JUNE 2017 – 06:02 by COLIN WOOD (BusinessDay).