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Monday, September 9, 2013

Creating Jobs by solving South Africa's Energy Crisis. 2013-02-07

Nuclear Power and Fracking vs Renewable Energies

I've learnt from Einstein's writings that engineers and scientists typically want to sell existing technology they specialise in and are loath to learn new technologies. This has dramatically slowed down progress over the centuries.

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) of 2010, which is South Africa's strategic document for energy expansion and implementation until 2030, gives nuclear a high risk factor of 10 out of 12, whereas Wind has a low risk factor of 2 and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), which uses mirrors in a "solar farm" to heat salt to 800 degrees celsius scores a 5 out of 12. Nuclear is therefore high risk from a Cost Assumptions, Lead Time Assumptions and Operations Risks point of view. It scores the same as Wind from a Security of Supply point of view! Solar Photovoltaic systems were not scored in this risk analysis, but gas scores between 6 and 10 out of 12. Coal scores 7.

One can therefore see that the government's own studies show that renewable energy is far less risky than nuclear, coal and gas, yet this government is doing its best to prevent and/or delay the adoption of this technology.

Not only this, but the new build of 9.6 GW of Nuclear energy, representing 5 Koeberg Size power stations, is somewhere between R377 billon and R1.4 trillion, depending on who does the analysis and depending if cost overruns at new nuclear power stations are taken into account. How come after more than 60 years of building nuclear power stations, we still don't understand the costs?

The time scales are also long for non-renewable energy. The first phases of the two new coal power stations, Kusile and Medupi, should have come on stream last year and assuming the government says Nuclear Will Happen, then it could take up to 15 years for this energy to come on stream. Renewable Technologies can come on-stream in weeks, and in a country with massive unemployment, this factor should be considered.

And even if South Africa decided to destroy its pristine Karoo by allowing Fracking, it would take at least 12 years for the production of this dirty energy to come on stream. And South Africa is not the same as the USA which has established gas usage mainly used for district heating, as well as cooking and heating homes. The USA already has piped gas. It already has the knowledge to pipe the gas from Source to End User. South Africa would need this and without this one can assume that the government's intention if they allow Fracking would be that most of the gas is exported. The Karoo would be ruined. And South Africans wouldn't benefit. And we'd need to spend hundreds of years cleaning up. Some rich people would become richer, which the majority of South Africans would become poorer, not just financially, but also naturally.

In the meantime South Africa suffers in a recession of its own making. The reason? Lack of electricity supply! There are people who want to expand operations, but can't because of lack of electricity. There are people who want to build shopping centres, but can't because of lack of electricity. And there are even people who want to build houses, but can't because of lack of electricity. And yet our people cry out for housing!
South Africa's central problem is lack of electricity. And this lack is effecting every one of our citizens now.
Enter CSP, one of the many renewable energy technologies. Spain regularly runs its CSP Plants for 16 hours a day. This is done by having a storage system, would could be molten salt or molten sulphur. 16 hours a day could be 6am to 10pm, which would more than cover South Africa's peaks, which are 7 to 10 am and 6 to 8pm. The evening peak demand is higher than the morning peak. And CSP has already run for 24 hours per day! CSP technology is getting more and more efficient, and cheaper and cheaper. Nuclear is getting more and more difficult to implement due to safety concerns and more and more expensive, not just because of safety, but also because of expensive mining operations and the need to rehabilitate the mines and keep out of date reactors cool for hundreds of years after they close.

CSP with storage is already cheaper than Nuclear to build.

If the many South African nuclear and nuclear construction engineers applied their minds to CSP and the other Renewable Energies, our electricity crisis would soon be at an end. If homeowners were allowed to produce their own electricity and use Time of Use Metering to restrict electricity usage at peak times, our electricity and jobs crisis would soon be at an end.

And South Africa would start increasing its growth pace from being the 37th fastest growing country in Africa to the fastest growing country within a decade. Ghana, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Botswana are all growing faster at more than 6% per annum. South Africa languishes as around 2% per annum, not enough to create new permanent employment.

The big question is: when will South Africans realise that renewable energies are the answer to our problems and that the shortage of electricity is happening now and that we can't wait decades of new fossilised fuel energies? By 2017 our electricity prices will have increased 540% since 2008. Is this sustainable? Is our economy becoming more productive? And is nuclear going to a part of this mix?

"David Lipschitz is a software developer who developed a passion for renewable energy 9 years ago when he realised how expensive our fossilised fuel energy would become both in financial terms and in environmental terms. David is a available for your financial software projects as well as in writing about energy. David is also an accomplished conference speaker and can do motivational talks to your company, residents association or board of directors. Contact David on 021 551 9935 or david@mypowerstation.biz."

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