Jeff Radebe . Picture: GCIS
Jeff Radebe . Picture: GCIS

The government’s long-term energy plan, which has been stuck in the works for six years due to political machinations, is to be published for comment by Friday, energy minister Jeff Radebe said on Tuesday.

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), a 20-year planning tool that models energy demand and supply costs, will end years of uncertainty for independent renewable energy producers as well as for Eskom.

It will also provide clarity on the future of nuclear energy in SA, which has been the subject of much controversy and litigation.

Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of parliament’s portfolio committee on energy, Rabebe said the IRP “would definitely be gazetted for public comment this week, as there has been a complaint that there has not been sufficient public consultation”. But he said the comment period would be short.

The SA Faith Community Environmental Initiative, which in 2017 successfully overturned a ministerial determination to allow the government to commission nuclear energy, is among those that have previously warned the state that any new energy plan would be challenged if the public consultation process was short-circuited.

The plan comes at a time when there is much debate about the future shape and size of Eskom and of the energy sector. Eskom is expected to publish a strategic plan at the end of September. What the IRP says about the future of coal will have an important bearing on Eskom’s future.

The IRP has a tortured history and has been battered by political manipulation. The first IRP was published in 2010 with the intention that it would be updated every two years, to take account of changing patterns of demand and the changing relative price of technologies.

But the 2010 IRP remains the government’s guiding plan, as subsequent plans were produced but not adopted by cabinet.

Since 2010 much has changed in the energy environment. Demand forecasts are much slower and relative costs of power generation options have changed.

Since 2010, for instance, the cost of producing renewable energy using solar PV or wind has more than halved.