23 June 2014

South Africa: Op-Ed - We Don't Need More Nuclear Power - Just Policy Coherence


It is hard to disagree with President's Zuma's call, in his State of the Nation address, for a radical transformation of the energy sector. One can't deny that solving the energy issue is central to South Africa's future economic growth. One could even find some encouragement in his statement that this "will require structural changes in the manner in which government departments, affected state-owned companies and the industry as a whole address the energy challenges". But all this is undermined by the renewed push for more nuclear power.

Since long before our time, South Africa has been characterised by its cheap and abundant electricity, generated and transmitted by Eskom. By revenues, Eskom is still one of our largest companies and it has profoundly shaped our economy, just as mining has done. That our economy and its industrial base is one of the most power-intensive, resulting in the highest power consumption-to-unit of gross domestic product ratios anywhere, is a result of a clear and consistent policy about what a national electricity utility should be. Other countries have followed the same model, where one utility controls almost the total electricity value chain, from the mostly coal-fired generators to...

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