Kelvin Kemm: South African Electricity and Climate Realism

The following are some key points from this highly informative interview that puts the South African electricity issue, climate variations and nuclear energy into perspective:

South Africa`s power cuts in relation to Germany and the UK, South Africa`s excellent National Grid, comparisons of scale: African energy solutions vs European energy solutions, foreign interference in South African Energy Policy.`Just` 1% of CO2, Fukushima was an industrial incident not a nuclear disaster, radioactive water and the media dramatizing all things civic nuclear.

Nuclear: the way forward, Small Modular Reactors: gas cooled with built in passive safety. The evolution of Small Modular Reactors developed in South Africa in 1993. Growing interest across Africa in Small Modular Reactors suitable for powering communities as well as deep level mines.

The interview concludes with a discussion on the so-called climate crisis. Dr Kemm has a great analogy of just how much the global CO2 increase is. Global warming is caused by variations in the magnetic field of the sun as experienced in the Middle Ages. The Medieval warm period was warmer than it is now. There was also the Roman warm period and the Minoan warm period, cyclic pattern.

In South Africa we have a very good electrical system and a very comprehensive grid. In fact, bearing in mind that we are a very large country, we have a good national grid. People do not realize that the standard Mercator Map projection distorts the image. Africa is bigger than the United States, China , all of Europe and India added together. People do not realize that South Africa alone is bigger than the whole of Western Europe added together. So the distance from where I am in Pretoria to Cape Town, which is right at the bottom of the country, is the same distance as Rome to London ( Pretoria is inland roughly two thirds of the breadth of South Africa).”

The Karoo which is a region within one of the provinces is larger than Germany.

Given the size of South Africa, the electric grid is very good.

Load shedding – negative press. What is load shedding? It is not random but scheduled interruptions to parts of the grid.

What caused the start of load shedding and South Africa`s current energy problems which should be resolved in the coming 6 months or so: government dithering over what path to take and pressure to turn to wind and solar.

Government is now wisely resisting the pressure to go green and now turning to nuclear and coal which provide reliable 24/7 of baseload

The UK and Germany are also facing similar energy shortages however, unlike the UK which imports electricity from Norway (hydro) and nuclear energy from France when necessary, South Africa cannot import from neighboring countries.

Pressure to go for wind and solar has definitely contributed to electricity shortage in South Africa. Solar can only supply electricity during the day. Wind is also variable and this is the problem with renewables. Solar whether in households or factories creates instability for the national grid which must compensate for whenever the solar is not available. It is like expecting free insurance.

Pressure from Europe, mainly Germany, to go green: South Africa gets promised billions to stop using coal however in reality  90% of the offer is loans. The 10% is money that you are expected to spend on buying their renewable systems.

Coal export from South Africa : dramatic increase of demand for South African coal in Germany. So why are Germans telling South Africans to stop using coal when they are buying record amounts of it?

Load shedding is a very recent phenomenon. Prior to these past few years South Africa has never had this problem. Which is why South Africa has always been an economic success. In the 1960s it had the world`s second highest GDP growth, second to Japan. Precisely because of its stable and strong electricity grid combined with good road and rail infrastructure and steel manufacturing, all the essential needs for a good economy.

South Africa runs on 80% coal but CO2 output is only 1% of global output. Why should South Africa be condemned for that? All the green measures are for future generations while South Africa`s current generation suffers with unemployment, poor economy, health services and housing all affected by load shedding. Agriculture is being badly affected due to power cuts . Even a flour mill or irrigation system needs electricity.

The future: the world is going through a transition from coal to nuclear. Nuclear wins on everything . Nuclear is the safest, most reliable, most efficient,  the cheapest in the long run and the greenest in that it does not produce any CO2.

Source: Tom Nelson

16 August 2023

Dr Kelvin Kemm is a Business Strategy Consultant and runs his own company, Stratek, based in Pretoria. He is a nuclear physicist and is a past Chairman of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa).

Dr Kemm started work as a research and development scientist but then moved into the management of technology and became involved in a wide variety of projects in many industrial sectors, giving him wide exposure to a technological and industrial base. He developed high technology systems and frequently went out ‘in the field’ to work on developments first hand. These activities took him into many factories, down mines, into power stations, riding in experimental aircraft and vehicles, and into banking, advertising and marketing systems.

Kelvin Kemm is a great believer in sound strategy development, and he points out that this is far more difficult than it appears on the surface. This includes understanding the psychology of the society within which a technology system must function.

Dr Kemm believes that a healthy economy needs a wide appreciation of the role of technology and how it fits into any strategic plan. Technology is not just the nuts and bolts; it is the entire basis on which any company stands. It is the proverbial concrete foundation of any enterprise.

He became interested in the public awareness of technology and has written over 1000 popular interest articles in journals, magazines and newspapers, internationally. He has written two books; a public interest book on South African technology: Techtrack – A Winding Path of South African Development and a coffee table book: At the Forefront of Weather. He has been a Plenary Guest Speaker at the World Nuclear Association in London, and at the World Nuclear Exhibition in Paris. He Chaired the opening ceremony of ATOMEXPO in Moscow in 2016, and was a guest speaker at the African Union Economic Summit in Mauritius in 2017.

He has been a Guest Speaker in places as diverse as Hanoi, Windhoek and Stockholm. He has also been a speaker at tribal events in the bush, in Venda, Sekhukhuneland and southern Angola. In contrast he has given both Senate and Congressional briefings in Washington DC.

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