Wednesday, 11 May 2011

South African energy CEO: "Coal is best, cheapest option"

There seems to be a continuing flow of catastrophic climate change news from Africa ahead of the cop 17 conference to be held in Durban in November. At a recent World Economic Forum Africa conference in Cape Town, South Africa´s president Jacob Zume added his voice to the alarmist cause:

"As a global community, we have no alternative but to respond to the challenges of climate change. They are real, they are life and death. We cannot hesitate, we cannot wait, we need to act now," Zuma said.

Although Zuma and other alarmists got most of the publicity at the conference, it is worth noting that there were at least three moderate and realistic voices:

This is what Brian Dames, CEO of the state-owned power utility company Eskom had to say:

Coal is best, cheapest option says Eskom boss

SA will continue to use coal to generate electricity because this is still the cheapest and quickest option.

Dames said while the price of renewable energy was coming down, Eskom was continuing to build its two coal-fired plants (at Kusile and Medupi) as that was the easiest and most efficient way to deal with energy security.
"Out of 54 countries in Africa only 15 have a power capacity of more than 500MW," Dames said.

"We have a massive energy issue on the continent. It is truly a dark continent."

But he said the government's integrated resource plan (IRP) has a clear view that SA would draw a line on coal investments after Eskom's Kusile power station was completed and then invest in cleaner energy.
"Hence nuclear power then needs to play a role in meeting our energy needs," Dames said.

While Zuma was propagating the alarmist line, the country´s energy minister, Dipuo Peters also had a surprisingly realistic view of its energy future:

She said the IRP, which sets out power-generating plans for the next 20 years, still includes a large percentage of coal-generated power.
"We need to do that with the understanding that we need to mitigate climate change," she said.
"We are working with other (African) governments on research on clean technology for coal-fired power generation. This (coal) is what we know at present and how we can ensure security of supply."

And this from Eskom´s chairman:

Eskom's chairman, Mpho Makwana, who was also one of the co-chairs of this year's WEF on Africa, said only 30% of Africa's one billion people had access to electricity.
"It is impossible to improve education and health systems on the continent without power," said Makwana.

Read the entire article here

Although almost all African political leaders are screaming for climate change aid in order to "save" their continent, it is interesting to note, that there are among the energy decision makers also people with balanced and realistic views, like e.g. the three mentioned above. How refreshing it is to listen to an energy company CEO, who does not feel the need to sugar coat his message with the usual politically correct "green" phrases (as American and European CEOs nowadays usually do).

And Mr. Dames´s company is no small actor in Africa. Here are some facts about Eskom:
  • has 24 power stations with a nominal capacity of 39 872 megawatts
  • is among the top five utilities in the world in terms of size and sales
  • is presently one of the lowest-cost producers of electricity in the world
  • supplies 95% of the country's electricity requirements, which equals more than half of the electricity generated on the African continent

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