The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Black Business Council (BBC) have called for amendments to the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2018, telling Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Energy, on Friday, that the draft plan, with its emphasis on renewable energy rather than coal, would lead to job losses and reverse empowerment gains.
“Black people are the face of unemployment in South Africa. Some of our members who are engineers are unemployed. We can’t destroy jobs in coal mines and in power stations. We have to create them,” said Seponono Kekana, on behalf of the NSBE.
She said the quality of jobs in coal-fired power stations was far more complex and long-lasting than in the renewable energy industry, while far more jobs were created in operations in power stations than in wind and solar energy plants.
“You have mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, boiler makers, welders and many people working on site at coal-fired plants. A solar plant is very quiet. Very little is being done there.”
Kekana said an economic analysis of five of Eskom’s coal power stations showed that 92 961 jobs had been sustained on average per year, with R21.1-billion in total income going to households on average per year.
“For every power station, there are mining jobs too and small businesses. A lot of our members live in those areas,” said Kekana, who is an engineer.
“Many engineers and other people working there are in the black middle class; they take care of their families in the rural areas as well. You will be affecting them, their families and the people they take care of back home. We also can’t encourage people to study engineering and then they . . . can’t find jobs.”
Kekana said the organisation considered jobs in coal-fired power stations as far more viable and long-term.
“We want projects that take ten years . . . that we can industrialise. We see this IRP as a step backwards in policy. The Department of Trade and Industry wants to support black industrialists, but then you get this energy policy, which doesn’t seem to [support that]."
The NSBE said the draft IRP was also detrimental to black economic empowerment.
“The IRP 2018 will reverse empowerment gains. A lot of our members are working in State-owned-enterprises. The credentials renewable companies have on empowerment are not impressive.”
Tsepo Mahlaba from the BBC said the organisation does not lobby for any specific technology and wants to promote a balanced energy mix, but felt that the mix was skewed towards renewable energy in the IRP 2018.
“It is misaligned with the National Development Plan, which specifies the reduction of unemployment and alleviation of poverty. It is based on reducing carbon emissions but is using renewable sources at the expense of nuclear and coal.”
The BBC says the IRP 2018 is "forcing" a non-developmental direction of the economy in the long run and would also risk investor confidence in South Africa.
“The revised Draft IRP2018-2030 must be reviewed to incorporate all relevant technologies in the energy mix and must present a balanced view to secure realistic energy security of supply, infused with specific goals of the NDP2030, which includes industrialisation, technology transfer, job creation and socioeconomic development”
Mahlaba said South Africa’s contributions to greenhouse-gas emissions were "a drop in the ocean compared to what the world has done" particularly countries like the US and China.
He also criticised the plan for excluding new nuclear power generation capacity.
“If we are trying to reduce carbon emissions, then the draft IRP removes the cleanest technology, which is nuclear.”
The BBC said the draft IRP was misaligned with other energy-related policies. There was insufficient consideration for energy security and a poor analysis of risk. It listed other shortcomings as an inaccurate and inconsistent costing analysis, the creation of ghost towns and stranded assets and an incapacity to drive sustainable job creation.