Public hearings on energy mix begin with minister’s pronouncement hanging over them
Public hearings on the Integrated Resource Plan, which will determine SA’s future energy mix, began in Gauteng on Wednesday, despite a surprise pronouncement last week by Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson in which she named the energy scenario that she believed most likely to prevail.
The Department of Energy two weeks ago published the "base case" of the IRP, which set out the energy mix, when these would be needed and the estimated costs.
The base case suggested that new nuclear capacity would be required by 2037 and that by 2050, SA will need an additional 20GW of nuclear power, 5.5GW of wind and solar photo-voltaic energy, 40GW of gas and 15GW of coal generation.
But, in an opinion article published last week, Joemat-Pettersson said that a scenario other than the base case — the one favoured by Eskom, which would see nuclear coming on stream by 2016 — "is the most likely scenario".
This, she said, was because the growth of renewable energy must be limited due to the constraints of connecting to the grid; and because the government needed to apply a "carbon budget" to the scenario.
This is the scenario favoured by Eskom, which it says justifies the immediate start of the procurement programme for new nuclear power.
Joemat-Pettersson’s comments are significant as the Department of Energy has said the public consultation process is open-ended.
At the hearings on Wednesday, the draft IRP came under fire for using outdated prices for renewable energy, which have fallen significantly; and for limiting the growth of renewable energy sources without justifiable reasons.
The department responded to the criticism saying it had used prices from November 2015, when it began the process to update the IRP.