The Rationale of nuclear & renewable energy mix:
Today access to the modern, clean and sustainable energy resources turns to be a key prerequisite for more and more countries to enable better welfare of the population and dynamic development of the industry. Africa’s economy demonstrates the unprecedented rate of economy growth. In this context, one of the pending challenges for emerging African countries still register rising demand for energy.
If these current energy access trends continue, by 2030 there will still be 655 million people in Africa (42% of the population) without access to power and 866 million (56% of the population) without clean cooking facilities, depriving the majority of the population of the opportunity to pursue a healthy and productive life.
Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, with nearly 6% economic growth on average over the past 15 years. With continued high growth rates expected for the region, reducing the current power infrastructure shortcomings will be crucial in ushering in growth model based upon economic diversification and industrial development.
Economic growth, changing lifestyles and the need for reliable modern energy access is expected to require energy supply to be at least doubled by 2030. For electricity, it might even have to triple. Africa is richly endowed with sustainable energy potential and now, time is ripe for African economies to plan eco-friendly energy mixes. However, a continued reliance on oil and gas along with traditional biomass combustion for energy will bring considerable social, economic and environmental constraints.
It’s possible for these countries to deploy sustainable energy mix which incorporates nuclear and renewable energy sources among others energy sources to eliminate power shortages, bring electricity and development opportunities to rural villages that have never enjoyed those benefits, boost industrial growth, create a conducive entrepreneurial ecosystem and support increased prosperity across the continent. According to the new report of International Energy Agency (IEA), both nuclear and renewable energy sources are perceived as important pillars to guarantee world’s growing energy needs with a view of limiting greenhouse emissions and average temperature growth.
In a new energy development scenario, clean energy sources will dominate the generation mix. For instance, each nuclear and wind power will embrace 18% of energy generation while hydro and solar power will contribute to 20% and 9% respectively. However, despite the fact that under the new scenario nuclear and the wind generate virtually the same amount of electricity, nuclear does so with just 820 GW of installed capacity while the wind requires more than 2300 GW.
What is therefore required is to leverage on benefits of energy sources to bring about sustainable energy mix. Nuclear generation is a cost-competitive low-carbon generation option according to the IEA report. The cost per unit of electricity produced from the wind or solar PV being 22-40% higher than that from nuclear generation, even without counting the additional costs of adapting the grid and providing the back-up generation required to compensate for their intermittent supply.
For instance, for the Government of Kenya to maintain annual growth of 10% as envisaged in the development blueprint “vision 2030”, energy ought to be an enabler to transforming Kenya into a sustainable country with an average income thus attain middle-income status.
Up to 2030, about 70% of energy; according to the program, will be produced by sustainable energy sources. The government tries to free Kenya from costly and unstable energy resources like fossil fuels and diesel generators. In particular, the government is focused on the development of sustainable energy mix to boost the country’s economy and investment attractiveness. “Vision 2030” aims to not only provide the country with the necessary energy supply but also to solve problems of poverty, food and access to modern medical services and education.
The government plans to provide electricity to 100% of the population by 2030. Among the main sources of energy that are considered include hydro, solar, gas and nuclear power. Nuclear energy is considered as one of the most important energy sources in the Strategy 2030. According to the governmental estimates, nuclear power can generate up to 19% of energy in the country thus putting it in second place after the geothermal energy. Kenya plans to construct its first ever nuclear plant to fill its power deficit hence defying calls from energy critics and experts who urged the nation to instead focus on developing its renewable energy.
Russian nuclear energy corporation, Rosatom, intends to participate not only in nuclear projects but also in renewable energy projects. The corporation is actively exploring the global market and looking for opportunities to build mutually beneficial relationships with local players. Among the renewable energies, wind energy projects are in special focus and the aim of Rosatom is to participate in the development of the technologies necessary for these projects and also in the production of the wind farm equipment. Rosatom is a long term investor, with a profound belief that in the energy industry, decisions must be made on the basis of long-term strategies and understanding.
On my recent research paper, published in one of the respected journal OGEL journal titled: “Governmental approach to Kenya’s future Energy Mix”, of the essence to note among the findings was that no energy source is superior to another. This forms point of departure for my argument that what we should be having is a decent conversation around energy, which is, all energy sources complement each other hence the Mix.
The writer is an Economics & policy Analysis lecturer at Karatina University School of business and a contributing Author for OGEL Journal. He is also the Kenyan engagement lead for the Extractive hub.