Bruce’s List: A guide to informed reads.
If it was ever the case that President Jacob Zuma had stitched up a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin to buy 9,600MW of nuclear power technology from Russia, that deal is now dead in the water. There’ll be no fat bribes or commissions and no trillion rand poured into an old technology. The rand strengthened sharply yesterday after the department of energy published details of its new (and draft) Integrated Resource Plan and it comes, fortunately, just as two of the three big ratings agencies are due to pronounce on the quality of our international debt — one the day after tomorrow and the other next Friday.
Briefly, the plan envisages a further 37,400MW of wind and 17,600MW of solar power by 2050. And it envisages just 1,359MW of nuclear necessary by 2037, rising more rapidly to 20,385MW between 2037 and 2050. In other words, nuclear is being kicked down the road until a time when renewable technologies would either have progressed to the point where storage is no longer a problem or they have demonstrably failed to do so. The 1,395MW of nuclear by 2037 would be just two new reactors and they would probably be built at Duynefontein, a few kilometres from Koeberg.
If ever. The IRP will be open for comment for a few months and will be finalised by next March. Eskom, on the other hand, is pretending none of this is happening. As always, it knows best. It plans — all the evidence and research and expertise that has gone into the IRP notwithstanding — to put out a request for proposals for a nuclear fleet early next year. Its head of power generation (and the most likely replacement for Brian Molefe as CEO) Matshela Koko, says the group intends to plan on the basis that nuclear power would in fact be required by 2025. He gets to this absurd position (despite boasting daily about how much surplus power Eskom is generating) by clinging to a scenario where the addition of more renewable power is (artificially) constrained and new carbon limits are imposed.
But Eskom, sadly, has lost its authority by throwing money at the Gupta family and trying to hide it or lie about it. It was the knowledge that credibility and authority have been eroded that convinced Molefe to announce his resignation a few weeks ago. I doubt we’ll see a new reactor here ever, though, personally, I think Duynefontein ought to be built if we can afford it without a huge increase in tariffs.
The bottom line, though, is that if it were ever true that the Russians have “already paid” inducements for the original 9,600MW, as so many people seem to believe, they will now be wanting their money back. Sanity appears to have prevailed and the extra, and extraordinary, 20,385MW of nuclear power required between 2037 and 2050 is not only a thumbsuck but a poor one, unlikely to ever occur. Zuma, who I once heard describe the Russian deal as something that would “fix this, once and for all” has lost another battle. It is part of the story of his downfall.
If you want a straight story about your country, I always say, read it in a foreign news agency. Here’s Reuters’ take on yesterday’s announcements. And Bloomberg’s, along with a pithy comment on Zuma and the rush for nuclear from Alec Hogg’s BizNews.
In Business Day, meanwhile, Carol Paton has this good analysis and points out that even the small nuclear requirement in the base case (that’s the most likely scenario in reports like these) is an artificial one because it goes out of its way to help Eskom by limiting the amount of renewable power on Eskom’s transmission lines because, for some inexplicable reason, Eskom can’t add wind or solar power to its lines as easily as it can coal or gas. It is rubbish, of course, and by 2037 Eskom, if there is any sanity in government by then, will have been split up and transmission and power generation will be owned and controlled by different companies. Eskom should stick to generation and the private sector should be allowed to add to the grid in any way it deems profitable. The department of energy should own and control the grid. Koko, who likes to remind us he is an engineer, can focus on keeping his current fleet from breaking down.
Love him or hate him, RW Johnson is one of the smartest political analysts in the country. His last book, “How Long Will SA Survive?”, was a runaway success and an excellent read. Read this analysis he wrote for Politicsweb on why Donald Trump won the US election this month. It is easily the best I have come across, and I’ve read hundreds.
And you may remember I carried a great piece here last week from Rian Malan, answering Julius Malema’s outburst about blacks slaughtering whites to take back “their” land. It is only right that I publish at least one good response to it. I found this, also on Politicsweb, and it is a really thoughtful read. There’s a link to Malan’s original at the end: “Dear Mr Malema ...”