Comparing concentrating solar and nuclear power as baseload providers using the example of South Africa

Stefan Pfenninger*, James Keirstead

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the increasing importance of variable renewable power generation, baseload, that is stable and predictable power generators, remain the backbone of many countries' power systems. We here compare CSP (concentrating solar power) and nuclear power as baseload electricity providers for the case of South Africa, which is adding significant new generation capacity, has an abundant solar resource, but also one existing and additional planned nuclear power plants. Both of these technologies are considered baseload-capable with sufficient available fuel (sunlight or fissible material) to provide large amounts of nearly emissions-free electricity. We find that under a range of technological learning assumptions, CSP compares favorably against nuclear on costs in the period to 2030, and has lower investment and environmental risks. The results suggest that while nuclear power may be an important low-emissions power technology in regions with little sun, in the case of South Africa, CSP could be capable of providing a stable baseload supply at lower cost than nuclear power, and may have other non-cost benefits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-314
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Baseload
  • Low-emissions electricity
  • Nuclear power
  • Solar power


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