The Department of Energy (DoE) has formally extended the period for public comment on the draft Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) and the draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) base case until March 31.
The closing date for written comment was initially set as February 15, after the two plans were formally Gazetted on November 25.
The DoE said the decision to extend the comment period followed requests from a number of stakeholders.
To date, the department has hosted hearings on the IEP and the IRP in Gauteng, the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
A number of participants expressed dismay at the short notice provided for preparing oral submissions and the restricted timeframe for the submission of written comments.
There has also been strong criticism of the plans, particularly of the IRP base case, which, in its assumptions, places constraints on the amount of renewable energy that should be introduced yearly on the basis of possible negative consequences for grid stability.
Several presenters urged the DoE to re-run the base case in order to generate a least-cost outcome, free from the “artificial constraints” imposed on renewable energy in the current draft.
Despite the constraints, the base case still assumes that the first new nuclear reactor would only be required by 2037, rather than the now unobtainable deadline of 2023 in the current IRP, which was published in early 2011 and is considered to be significantly out of date.
Nevertheless, State-owned utility Eskom issued a request for information (RFI) on December 20 for the ‘Nuclear New Build Programme’ in line with an amended section 34(1) determination, published in the Government Gazette of December 14, designating Eskom as the procurer of the nuclear generation plant, which also involves the front-end fuel cycle facilities which will be procured by the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, or Necsa.
The RFI was issued instead of the request for proposals, previously mooted, and Eskom stressed that the process was not a competitive tender and would, thus, not create any financial commitments or obligations on it or government.
The closing date for responses to the RFI is April 28.