Energize Inbox, May 2014

May 14th, 2014, Published in Articles: Energize


This month’s letters deal with the importance of a variety of generation sources all adding to the overall energy supply; appreciation for the opinions and suggestions made in the previous month’s lead editorial; and a reader’s view regarding the cost of nuclear. Send your letters to: energize@ee.co.za

Our winning letter:

re: Eskom’s CEO departs


With regard to the “next generation” of power station construction, Eskom is in much of a catch-22 situation: Coal-based stations are expensive, and politically-incorrect in view of pollution considerations; they are also time-consuming to construct (Medupi, et al are extreme examples, but the construction of such a green-fields station will still run to at least five-plus years in the best of circumstances). Nuclear-build is even more expensive and time-consuming, to say nothing of the political opposition to it from some quarters.

In addition, “renewables” (PV and wind) suffer from intermittency of generation, and relatively small generation capacity – the largest wind generators today run to about 6 MW per machine, whereas just one generator at Medupi runs to about 800 MW. For 1 MW (daytime peak electrical value) of PV generation, about
6000 m2 of today’s solar panels will be needed. The arithmetic to make comparisons of capacity is easy, but the results are depressing. The intermittency seems an insoluble problem until a major breakthrough in GWh-range energy storage technology arrives. It seems unlikely that breaking up Eskom into a series of smaller units will make any significant difference: these will still be beset by government interference and a large degree of staff incompetence, due to a lack of experience. Are there any ideas of “where to, next”?

Tony Fisher, Boksburg

Response from EE Publishers: My view is that all energy sources and technologies – coal, natural gas, shale gas, diesel, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, biomass, waste heat, waste gas, biomass, biogas and more – have different advantages and disadvantages, and form part of the solution. I believe there is no energy crisis in SA and Africa, but there is a serious management crisis in the electricity supply industry – from the cabinet to the DoE and DPE, Nersa, Eskom and municipal distributors. I also believe the unbundling of Eskom into manageable generation units and an independent transmission system and market operator, the introduction of independent power producers and a rationalised electricity distribution industry of six to ten REDs, and any number of electricity retailers, is essential for a vibrant energy future that minimises risk through diversity of ownership and primary energy sources. I also believe that the re-capitalisation of the constituent parts of a restructured electricity supply industry is essential, with the introduction of private sector capital, including local and international equity partners, listings of stock exchanges, etc.

Chris Yelland, EE Publishers



re: Crisis? What crisis?

The lead editorial on page 3 of Energize, April 2014, is a great article! It is so refreshing when an industry leader has the courage to face up to the current reality and then make practical proposals on how to start turning this around. This is a great country and we don’t have to allow our electricity supply to degenerate into 3rd world standards, but then we will have to draw a line in the sand and start doing the right things from a SA Inc. perspective.

Piet van Staden

re: SA nuclear industry criticises IRP update


Regarding the article published online on 16 March 2014, it must be borne in mind that nuclear is no longer cheap. In Australia, it is more expensive than coal with wind being the least costly and solar coming second. The increasing number of peer reviewed studies worldwide are proving nuclear not to be safe. In fact growing numbers of studies point clearly to increased birth defects and cancers, not only around uranium mines, but also around nuclear installations. Solar and wind technology is highly innovative and growing in solutions which afford dependability and sustained power provision. They are truly labour intensive and retain a higher number of people after the initial build. If South Africa is to move towards a thriving economy with opportunities for all, then solar, wind and wave offer these outcomes. They deliver on time, below cost and exceed their targets.

Judith Taylor

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