Robust discussions in cabinet over the country’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), for energy supply there surely will be as Deputy Energy Minister Thembisile Majola assured parliament’s Standing Committee on Energy yesterday. We all have our theories as to just why this inner-circle debate will be so robust, the most favoured being that certain highly placed politicians have a vested interest in expanding nuclear energy at the cost of all alternative, cleaner and cheaper methods of generation. Majola’s explanation for why alternative energy generation is not at the forefront of consideration seems sound; we don’t yet have sufficient network and storage capacity. But then surely the network side (at least) applies equally to a proposed multi-billion rand Russian-led nuclear build? The way the government has gone about this, consulting only at a very late stage on the IRP, indicates that its mind is already made up, and the foot-soldiers are now merely going through the motions. – Chris Bateman
By Liesl Peyper
Cape Town – The Department of Energy said on Tuesday it will do a modelling on renewable energy in an unconstrained scenario as an electricity generation option.
Briefing Parliament’s Standing Committee on Energy about the updated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the department’s chief director Jacob Mbele said renewable energy will be considered without constraints to test how readily it will be available as part of South Africa’s energy mix.
Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson in November last year said the assumption of the availability of renewable energy had to be constrained, as there are network constraints and storage is still in the early days of development.
She was however challenged by various energy analysts and experts on renewable energy for not taking into account the array of new developments and opportunities available.
How the IRP was drafted
Mbele in his submission to Parliament explained the process the department followed in drafting the IRP.
The draft plan was based on a number of key assumptions – such as the demand forecast – which were put together by Eskom and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. The economic parameters were based on information from National Treasury, technology and fuel costs, as well as other assumptions such as CO2 emission constraints, renewable energy annual build limits and existing energy plant performance.
“But the plan we’ve come up with is not exact and not about absolutes,” Mbele said, “and we must still test its robustness.”
During question time, DA spokesperson on energy Gordan Mackay said it seems that Parliament’s oversight role was “passed”.
“The IRP was launched in November and we only get to see it in February,” he said.
SA’s electricity Integrated Resource Plan is being updated by Department of Energy -its expected NOT to call for Nuclear till 2030.
— Tina Meier (@tinameier6) October 25, 2016
Who will be responsible for energy policy?
He also wanted clarification on who will ultimately be responsible for energy policy in South Africa. “Is it the Department of Energy, or Eskom? Can we have certainty that Eskom will adhere to these plans once signed off?” Mackay asked.
“Government makes policy and Eskom implements it,” said Ompi Aphane, deputy director general in the department. “There’s no uncertainty about it. Eskom won’t make policy in parallel.”
SA’s nuclear build programme
Fikile Majola, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Energy, said Parliament needs clarity on the implementation date of the nuclear build programme.
“Eskom says we start in 2024 and you say 2037. Which is it?”
Deputy Energy Minister Thembisile Majola responded, saying Eskom is not a government department. “It’s accountable to a department (which is energy). But we do need their cooperation.”
She said it’s important for the Department of Energy to have a discussion with Eskom on the IRP and not to dismiss the power utility’s concerns about electricity needs. “We should analyse the figures they put on the table,” Majola said.
MPs also wanted to know when they will see a finalised version of the IRP, to which Majola responded it is highly unlikely that the process would be completed before year-end.
“I can assure you there will be very robust discussions about this in Cabinet.” – Fin24