Prominent activist Liz McDaid has called on the government not to limit the construction of renewable energy capacity under the draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2018.
“A look at the IRP says renewables must be constrained. The rationale for restricting renewables is to pull nuclear or coal in,” said McDaid, while urging Members of Parliament (MPs) to investigate.
“It was on your watch that the nuclear deal [almost] went through. The tentacles of State capture go deep, so we appeal to you as MPs. The Department of Energy (DoE) as a department is a red flag for us in that they want to constrain renewables. We ask you to investigate,” she told Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Energy, which is holding hearings on the IRP 2018.
McDaid, who, together with fellow activist Makoma Lekalakala, won a High Court case to stop South Africa’s nuclear deal with Russia, said there was a window now to plot a cleaner, more sustainable way forward.
“We cannot continue with coal, nuclear and Grand Inga . Maybe it’s time to park Grand Inga and come back to it later. These are difficult decisions, but we have to be bold. The South African energy system has been in a mess due to indecision, lack of vision and a structure to drive it. We now have an opportunity to change that.”
McDaid was speaking on behalf of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environmental Institute (Safcei), which encompasses a range of people of many faiths who are committed to the environment and social justice.
She commended the energy department for a draft IRP that offered some flexibility, including for embedded generation, particularly if it led to cheaper electricity. But there were still constraints and risks.
“This is a drought-stricken country; climate change is real and we don’t need any more acid mine drainage or pollutants. We cannot say we’ll make a mess and leave it to other generations to clean up.”
McDaid also said she was concerned that the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme was not delivering as much as promised in terms of jobs and community benefits.
“This must be addressed going forward. Renewables are the future but it cannot be done as other programmes have done in the past.”
She also called for a just transition for coal workers, who she suggested should be retrained, reskilled and placed in jobs in other sectors of the economy.
Meanwhile, Women for Climate Justice Southern Africa project coordinator Ndivile Mokoena said the draft IRP failed to acknowledge the impact on women and the poor, who live in areas where access to modern electricity is lowest and often most costly.
“In South Africa, 2.5-million households lack access to electricity. Almost four-million households do not cook with electricity, while 2.5-million people rely on candles for lighting. There is no mention of women or gender is this entire IRP document, even though there are so many female-headed households affected by energy poverty.”
Mokoena called for a proper consultation process with communities in workshops throughout the country which would explain the IRP in an uncomplicated, non-technical way.
“The current process is flawed. It works on the assumption that people can read and write, so it excludes 24% of adult South Africans who are profoundly affected by energy.
“We need full disclosure on how the technical committee was formed and how members were nominated. We also need to establish a gender technical committee.”
Mokoena called for a new energy system which was not based on coal or nuclear and where communities would be able to procure energy directly from independent power producers.
Energy Committee chairperson Fikile Majola said he would relay the message calling for hearings in communities to the DoE.