Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why the rush?

Our Environment Minister approves of renewable energy featuring strongly in the future energy mix of the country. Indeed, IRP 2010 was largely driven by some strange ideas about a low carbon future.

The trouble is that renewable energy is a relatively unproven technology, and therefore risky. The Danes are having to sell half their wind energy at a considerable loss; the Texans are griping because power costs have soared as conventional stations have been forced into inefficient start/stop operation to accommodate surges; the Chinese are having to switch off wind power to keep their power plants running, because the power plants also send hot water to homes and factories for warmth.

What is the Environment Minister doing in areas about which she knows next to nothing? The simple fact is that renewables are expensive. IRP2010 showed this.

For instance, nuclear capital costs are about R27000/kWh installed, and wind about R14500. However, the nuclear plant has a life of 60 years and yields about 85% of its installed capacity every year. The wind installation has a life of about 20 years and yields less than 30% of its capacity. That means that the capital cost is about 6c/kWh for nuclear and 28c/kWh for wind. Operating costs are around 15c/kWh for nuclear and 9c/kWh for wind.

There is no contest - if you want affordable low carbon, you should be into nuclear power.

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