The long-awaited update to the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity is only likely to serve before Cabinet in September, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe reported on Thursday.
Addressing lawmakers on the occasion of the Energy Budget Vote, the Minister said that the draft IRP was still being considered by the social partners at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).
“We are in a process of finalising the IRP at Nedlac. In September 2019, we are hoping that a final product will be before Cabinet,” Mantashe said.
The current IRP, known as IRP 2010, was published in earlier 2011 and is includes outdated demand and technology cost assumptions.
Mantashe stressed that the IRP would include a diversified portfolio of technologies, including cleaner coal, nuclear, hydropower, gas, renewables and battery storage.
He slammed the current “polarised” debate in the electricity sector, which he said pitted coal against renewables and renewables against nuclear.
“It is not about that. It is about accessing all available sources of energy and using them in a balanced and secure way for the country.”
He confirmed that a large portion of Eskom’s coal fleet would be decommissioned between 2020 and 2040 and said that the IRP would offer visibility of the generation technologies that would replace that fleet.
He also argued that South Africa should seek to sustain a role for nuclear beyond 2045, when Koeberg would be decommissioned, following a project to extend its lifespan beyond its current scheduled decommissioning date of 2024.
Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow mineral resources and energy minister Kevin Mileham highlighted the on-going delay to the updating of the IRP as adding to South Africa’s current energy and economic crises.
He said the DA would hold Mantashe to his commitment that an updated IRP would be promulgated in September and urged the Minister to also finalise the broader Integrated Energy Plan.
Mileham also criticised the continued inclusion of the government’s plan to import electricity from the Inga hydro scheme, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, describing the project as “dubious”.
Mantashe, however, insisted that South Africa would honour its treaty commitment to purchase power from Inga and described those proposing that South Africa renege on the deal as “selfish”.
Meanwhile the Minister also announced that the Department of Energy was working with the Development Bank of Southern Africa to “transition the Independent Power Producer (IPP) Office into a legal entity that will continue to execute the mandate of the department in bringing about security of energy supply”.
He said the conversion of the office into that of a “juristic institution” would ensure "stability" at the office, as well as “proper accountability of the IPP Office” to the executive of the department.