Exclusive interview with Greg Kaser, Senior Project Manager, World Nuclear Association (WNA). He is part of the nuclear session in the African Utility Week generation conference track in Cape Town in May.
1. Tell us more about your organisation and your activities in the utility industry?
The World Nuclear Association (WNA) is the international organization that represents the global nuclear industry and its companies. Our role is to promote a wider understanding of nuclear energy by producing authoritative information and news and facilitating industry cooperation on common issues. Membership is truly worldwide, encompassing companies from Asia, Europe, the Americas, Australia and South Africa.
2. Any specific project updates/success stories that you can share?
We were very pleased that the European Commission approved the British government’s plans to assist investment in nuclear energy in October 2014. WNA has always enjoyed a good relationship with the European Commission’s Euratom agency but some sections of the Commission were much more sceptical and in a community representing 28 member states consensus is not always easy to achieve.
The British government and EDF Energy were the main promoters of the Contract for Difference payment arrangement for the proposed new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset and convinced the Commission that this form of government intervention in the energy market addressed a real market failure. The Contract for Difference arrangement is being applied to wind energy projects as well, and so a range of low carbon technologies can benefit, not just nuclear. With our partners at Foratom and the Nuclear Industry Association, WNA submitted a detailed paper demonstrating the way nuclear energy supported Europe’s policies for decarbonisation, avoided environmental and health impacts and promoted a sustainable energy market.
3. What in your view are the main challenges currently to the energy industry in Africa?
Energy use in Sub-Saharan Africa is half that in Asian developing countries, according to the International Energy Agency, and outside of South Africa over half of the continents fuel requirements are provided by wood, charcoal and animal dung. These are mainly used for cooking by households.
Guess what? By 2040 the IEA expect these same fuels to still be providing 50% of primary energy requirements. In essence, the IEA’s excellent report on energy in Africa is saying that life for rural Africans stays the same for the next 25 years. It is a far cry from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s vision of sustainable energy for all.
4. What is your vision for this industry?
Affordable electricity is a major part of the development solution and the challenge facing us is how to make this available to middle and low income households and small enterprises, many of whom operate informally. Somehow we must combine major infrastructure investment with a base-of-pyramid business model and the only way this can be achieved is by involving the international development banks. At the current time the World Bank and its regional counterparts will not finance nuclear power, even though the technology has very low refuelling and running costs, is suitable for base load, and offers similar environmental and health advantages to renewable energy sources. It’s going to take a long time to turn opinion around but WNA wants to get the conversation underway.
5. You are part of the conference programme at this year’s African Utility Week in May, what will be your message?
Nuclear power is not just about reducing your carbon footprint; it should be part of Africa’s development strategy.