By Liz McDaid
The South African government’s headlong rush into the arms of the nuclear industry continues to defy reason, yet France, the bastion of nuclear energy, has seen the (sun) light.
Last month France passed the energy transition law, which sees it reduce its dependence on nuclear power from 75% down to 50% by 2030. The ministry is preparing for the “post oil” era and the law sees renewable energy to form 32% of final energy consumption.
Interesting aspects of the law include residents to obtain a refund of 30% for “energy renovation work”. It is envisaged that 75 000 jobs will be created in retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient.
France is also looking at the transport sector, including a novel idea that employers will contribute to their employees travel expenses for journeys made by bicycle or electric bike between home and the workplace.
When it comes to nuclear, as well as committing to reduction of nuclear energy to a cap of 63.2GW, there is also an additional focus on providing transparency and information to citizens on nuclear safety, as well as strengthening the role of the French Nuclear Safety Authority. Existing reactors that are over 40 years old will have a stricter regulatory framework.
Here, at home, South Africa clings to an outdated 2010 electricity plan that proposes that nuclear is included in part of the energy mix.
While France commits to increasing transparency on energy issues, the South African Energy Minister presented a document to the Parliamentary committee on energy which was supposed to be an update on energy security but which was labelled secret.
In the ensuing debate about what to do, in which one MP refused to entertain the presentation until the document had been declassified, the minister made the point to the committee that MPs will have to figure out how to deal with “sensitive” information as they are going to be presented with more of it.
Given that the DoE has refused to release the Russian agreement to the public, despite it being in the media, it seems that the minister is determined to prevent any public oversight of the nuclear deals. Given that the war room update is likely to deal with short term electricity supply issues and that parliament has received two previous updates with no secrecy clauses, we have to wonder what is the government trying to hide?
Liziwe McDaid is the Energy and Climate Change programme coordinator at SAFCEI. Contact her on email@example.com