South Africa's ambitious energy mix of nuclear and renewables
Published: 23 Nov 2015
For years South Africa has been heavily reliant on energy production via coal-fired electricity. However the nation is launching a range of ambitious projects to diversify its energy sources.
Solar and Wind energy are continuing to expand rapidly nationwide and at the same time the government is actively promoting a major expansion of nuclear energy. Despite this active push into renewables and nuclear power it is likely coal will still be a dominant energy source for the years to come.
"The most affordable option to produce the majority of our energy remains coal," which provides 85 percent of the country's energy, said Thomas Conradie, the Lethabo coal power station chief. "We don't have big resources in water, solar is still expensive to build and wind isn't 100 percent reliable because wind can't blow all day long,"
The government believes that to reduce its current reliance on coal power is to expand its nuclear development program. Naturally there is strong opposition from environmentalists and others concerned of the huge costs involved with nuclear development.
Apart from nuclear energy, South Africa is pressing ahead with renewable energy options.
"Coal will continue to be one of the sources of electricity in South Africa for a foreseeable period of time in the future," said Brian Mantlana, director of climate change issues at South Africa's environment ministry. But "what is important is how South Africa changes its energy mix going forward," he said.
Eskom this year launched its first wind farm near Vredendal in the desert near Namibia. Forty-six wind turbines some 115 metres (380 feet) tall are generating 100 MW of electricity.
Further north a solar scheme is under construction that is expected to produce an additional 100 MW.
The outputs are small so far, but Eskom plans a huge expansion of energy from renewable sources.
"By 2030 the aim is to almost double our capacity for electricity production in the country. And we want 42 percent of this new energy to come from renewables—the equivalent of 17,800 MW," said Ayanda Nakedi, director of renewable department for Eskom.
The target is "realistic", she said, because already 3,000 MW of renewable energy has been commissioned from private players that have invested millions of dollars into various projects.