I came across a Cape Times today, with a flurry of letters in support of nuclear power. I fired off a quick letter in response, but here is a slightly expanded version, as the constraints of the letters page aren’t the best place to discuss this properly.
Besides all of its other problems, nuclear power has a long lead-time. Waiting for nuclear power to save us is like waiting for the tooth fairy. We need to do something before that. Reducing demand by rolling out solar powered traffic lights, and solar-powered water heaters, is a good start, and the only unfortunate thing is that it takes a crisis to implement something so obviously sensible.
An 8-pole traffic light apparently uses the same amount of electricity as a family of four occupying a three bedroom house (source). It seems that the traffic authorities should also be looking at using LED’s or some other more energy-efficient bulb!
The next factor in the mix is cost. One of the Cape Times letter writers was complaining about the expensive cost of electricity in Germany, and then complaining about the lack of electricity here. Well, there’s a connection – scarce resources that are artificially sold at low prices become unavailable – just ask Zimbabweans.
Electricity in South Africa is ridiculously cheap. If it cost more, producers would be empowered to offer small-scale renewable solutions, individuals would be incentivised to offset the cost of their electricity by saving energy, and using alternatives. The solar water heaters, about to be subsidised, are one example of this.
The cost of electricity to the consumers is a different issue, and government subsidies of basic amounts, as with water, are required. It doesn’t help to confuse the consumer price and the producer price, and claim that electricity should be cheap for the poor, and still expect it to be supplied miraculously.
Denmark has a flourishing wind-power energy, with small-scale businesses all contributing. The same for Germany and solar. Germany’s solar power success story makes a mockery of claims that it’s not viable in South Africa, with its far superior solar profile.
Many small contributers make for a much healthier system than just one or two large ones. Open up the legislative framework so that small contributers can play a role, and you’ll unlock all our latent creativity, and go a long way towards solving the crisis.
- Why is anybody still considering nuclear?
- Localised green power
- Solving the energy crisis, without yesterday’s solutions
- Solar power breakthrough