The IRP envisions additional generation capacity by 2030 of 8 100MW each from wind and from gas, 1 000MW from coal, 2 500MW from hydropower and 5 670MW from photovoltaic. Photo: EPA
JOHANNESBURG - The contentious nuclear energy issue reared its head again yesterday when Energy Minister Jeff Radebe released the updated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for public input for a period of 60 days.

Radebe said the objective of the IRP, approved by the Cabinet last week, was to provide an electricity infrastructure plan aimed at ensuring security of supply, minimising cost of supply and water usage, and reducing emissions.

The long-term plan was also presented to business and labour in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) on Friday.

Yesterday, Radebe said the resultant installed capacity mix in 2030 consisted of coal with 34000MW, which was 46 percent of total installed capacity, nuclear with 1860MW (2.5 percent), hydro with 4696MW (6 percent), and pump storage with 2912MW (4 percent).

Photovoltaic system or solar was projected to contribute 7958MW (10percent), wind 11442MW (15percent) and gas 11930MW (16percent).

“It must be noted that while the coal installed capacity will be lower than current installed base, it will still contribute more than 65 percent of the energy volumes with nuclear contributing about 4 percent,” said Radebe, who signed a R56 billion contract with 27 independent power producers in April, expected to add 2300MW of electricity to the national grid over the next five years.

However, South African Nuclear Energy Corporation chairperson Dr Kelvin Kemm said nuclear energy was the solution to the country's energy crisis.

He said current demand for electricity was not rising, because the government prevented an expansion of the sector when the country ran out of electricity in 2007.

Kemm, who is also chief executive of Nuclear Africa, said the rolling blackouts, also known as load shedding, were bad for business.

Load shedding reportedly cost the economy about R80bn a month in 2015.

Kemm poked holes in the IRP, saying that the projected 41percent contribution to the grid by solar, wind and gas was laughable.

“The country doesn't have gas, and wind and solar are unreliable. Look, solar is only available at lunchtime. At night you have nothing,” he said. "By contrast a nuclear power station is always sitting at 100percent".

He said if the country pursued nuclear energy, lots of job opportunities could be created.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa said it would respond to the IRP in due course.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked President Cyril Ramaphosa, during a private meeting on the sidelines of the 10th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, whether the government was still committed to nuclear energy.

Ramaphosa had said he gave Putin a straightforward answer that Pretoria was pursuing a mixed energy policy including coal, renewables, hydro and nuclear.