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SA BREAKING NEWS!!! South Africa and Africa’s educational level and system lends itself to a Renewable Energy powered electrical system. We don’t have the time or resources to build coal or nuclear plants anymore. So what are we waiting for, and why are we wasting time on out of date technology that we cannot support and where local people will not be employed?
By David Lipschitz
South Africa and Africa lend themselves to a modern renewable energy powered grid because of the people we have available to build out and localise the grid and its capabilities.
As can be seen with the Medupi coal power station being way over budget and very late into coming into operation, South Africans have no idea how to build coal power stations yet on this basis we want to build nuclear power stations.
To get the requisite education, a nuclear engineer needs to attend an expensive school, go to a top university, work in nuclear power stations, build nuclear power stations, and eventually they can be employed at a very high salary to build, maintain and operate a nuclear power station in South Africa, assuming they want the job.
So it might cost R5 million to train a nuclear engineer who needs a Doctoral degree to design and build a nuclear power station, and get them to the requisite experience. One would then need to pay them R2 million per annum to have them work in Africa. Not only this, but the South African government continues to use French engineers and experts at its Koeberg Nuclear Power station, spending millions per annum flying out experts, accommodating them, and paying for upgrades. If there was real learning at Koeberg, we wouldn’t need foreign aid to run this power station anymore.
The same thing is applicable at Medupi, South Africa’s newest Coal Power Station. We need foreign engineers, foreign scientists, foreign capital, foreign software, and so much more foreign stuff that we should be able to see that these foreign suppliers really don’t want South Africa’s new and large power stations to ever be completed, especially with the possibility of more rapid depreciation in our currency. The fact is that they can get more and more out of our raw materials at cheaper prices. Why would they want us to be able to beneficiate our raw materials when they can do it with our raw materials and our coal and then sell the finished products back to us?
In a 52 page paper given out by the South African government in the Cape Town Parliament in November 2008, Amory Lovins, Chairman and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, in his 2008 paper, “The Nuclear Illusion”, said there is a shortage of nuclear engineers, a shortage of places where nuclear engineers can study and a shortage of plants making nuclear parts:
“Nuclear workers are becoming scarce too. Forty percent of those at U.S. plants are eligible for retirement within the next five years, and only 8% are younger than 32. Two-fifths of France’s reactor operation and maintenance staff will retire by 2015, and few of the new hires are trained nuclear experts. Meanwhile, nuclear education is dwindling. Since 1980, U.S. nuclear engineering university programs have declined from 65 to ~29 and have trouble attracting talented students; the Nuclear Energy Institute says the U.S. now has 1,900 undergraduates and 1,100 graduate students in nuclear engineering programs, but this remains far smaller than needs to offset retirements and staff proposed growth. In 2002, the UK had no undergraduate course in nuclear engineering. The number of German academic institutions with nuclear courses is expected to drop from 22 in 2000 to 10 in 2005 to 5 in 2010; 46 nuclear diplomas were granted in 1993, zero in 1998, and only two in the five years ended in 2002.49 As experienced nuclear experts retire, safely running old plants will be hard enough without staffing new ones.”
How many nuclear engineers have graduated from South African universities in the past 39 years since Koeberg become operational? How many local factories make parts for nuclear power stations? How many local people are employed supporting Koeberg?
Now lets compare this with training people to install renewable energy systems, focusing on producing electricity, solar electric, solar electricity, photovoltaic (PV) systems.
A team that can install one house per day needs three people. A craftsperson who can put in the required brackets to hold the PV panels. A labourer. And a qualified electrician, who can do the DC and AC wiring and programme the inverter and other equipment. This electrician needs a matric certificate, needs a three month electrical course, perhaps a year of practical experience and then this person can do one more month to become a qualified renewable energy installer.
So perhaps one year and R50 000 of training money is required for an electrician who can install and sign off a PV system. So we could have 100 local PV people for the cost of one foreign nuclear engineer.
The cost of the nuclear build is estimated at R1 trillion, and for this we get 10 GW of electricity.
For R1 trillian we could get 10 million * R100 000 home owner power stations rated at 3 kW of PV each, with a 5 kW inverter each and enough battery backup for them to run for at night and longer during the day because of the the PV input. The R100 000 is an average price: a township house might only require R30 000 and a mansion like Nkandla might need millions of Rands in electricity provision.
And for this R1 trillion we would get 10 million * 5000 Watts of power, ie 50 GW of power, which is five times as much as we could get if we build nuclear. One can then work out how many teams we need to do this build in 10 years, the theoretical time it will take to build the nuclear plants. And of course, each day, teams of people would be adding perhaps 25 kW of power to the grid, whereas we would need to wait a decade for 1 Watt of nuclear power.
South Africa and Africa’s educational level and system lends itself to a Renewable Energy powered electrical system. We don’t have the time or resources to build coal or nuclear plants anymore. So what are we waiting for, and why are we wasting time on out of date technology that we cannot support and where local people will not be employed?
– David Lipschitz FSAAEA, computer scientist, mentor and energy analyst with a Bachelor of Science Honours and an MBA, has run a Software Development business since 1994 and an Energy business since 2008. David motivates people to change the way they think about their environment and shows people that it is possible to live a sustainable lifestyle with minimal impact on the earth. Keynote, conference and workshop topics include energy efficiency, load shedding, and producing electricity