Carol Paton Editor at Large
Gwede Mantashe. Picture: GCIS
Gwede Mantashe. Picture: GCIS

Mineral resources & energy minister Gwede Mantashe says the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP),  the government’s long-term plan for meeting electricity demand, will have to make provision for all technologies, including coal, nuclear, hydro energy, gas and renewable energy.  

The draft IRP, which was published for comment and consultation more than a year ago, is keenly awaited by business and investors, given SA’s electricity supply constraints and the politicisation of energy policy. Mantashe said on Tuesday that he expected the final document to pass through the cabinet on Wednesday.

However, the inclusion of additional allocations for generation by coal, hydro power and nuclear energy indicate that an ANC commitment made by its national executive committee two weeks ago for a “least-cost IRP plan” will not find expression in the final document. Instead, the guiding principle will be to seek a balanced energy mix “at a scale and pace that the country can afford”.

A least-cost IRP would be a plan based on the use of the cheapest sources of energy available, which, based on the department of energy’s modelling, are wind and solar power. The value of the least-cost model is that it makes clear what the additional burden is to the price of electricity as a result of “policy adjustments” by the government.

Speaking at the Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities convention in Cape Town on Tuesday, Mantashe said the rationale for including all technologies in the energy mix was the need for a secure supply of electricity. “I want us to look at the combination of technologies and ensure that there is security of supply,” he said.

Mantashe added that when it came to coal-powered generation, “SA should make an effort to move to cleaner coal”, and when it came to renewable energy, it was critical to invest in battery storage as well.

In consultations since the draft was published in August last year, some constituencies have expressed strong support for an energy mix. Among them was the parliamentary portfolio committee on energy, which said it wanted to see both new coal and nuclear power in the energy mix.

Discussions in Nedlac between the government, labour and business did not reach full consensus. Among the points raised by labour was the need to have a nuclear energy component in the energy mix.

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