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The minister of energy, Jeff Radebe, published a draft of SA’s long-awaited new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for the power sector last week. Most observers are relieved that the draft does not include expensive nuclear power being forced into a "policy adjusted" plan with potentially disastrous financial and other consequences for SA, as was standard with the drafts produced during the Zuma years. While we should indeed be relieved that some sanity has prevailed in the process, this is not the benchmark against which the IRP should be measured. The test is how it fares in meeting the enormous challenges we face in the electricity sector today.

The sector is bankrupt. Long delays and cost overruns in Eskom’s coal-fired power station build programme have resulted in big price increases, consequent reductions in demand and ultimately in Eskom’s liquidity and funding crisis. Soaring wholesale electricity prices and institutional dysfunction are also driving a rapidly growing mun...

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