Despite assurances from Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, that the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) would be released this month, it now appears that it is extremely unlikely. Over the past 24 hours, reports have emerged that NEDLAC, and more specifically, organized labour, have rejected the plan in its entirety because it does not adequately provide for a nuclear build programme.
The IRP is South Africa’s electricity roadmap and lays out the demand expectations, as well as how electricity will be generated and sourced. It is vital to provide certainty for our energy supply and confidence in our economy. In addition, it is meant to provide a framework for a just energy transition, including the use of renewable sources of supply and the management of the national grid.
In terms of regulations, Minister Mantashe is mandated to promulgate a new IRP every two years. The last one was in 2010, and the current proposal has been a draft since 2016. Without the IRP, there is no framework to procure the generation of new energy. This increases our risk of load shedding and rolling blackouts, as we have no plan to replace the ageing fleet of power plants which are no longer up to the task of meeting our electricity needs.
We note that the current draft has been extensively workshopped with all stakeholders, including NEDLAC, and up until two weeks ago, all were on board. NEDLAC’s surprise about-turn is thus unexpected, and little more than economic sabotage. It should be noted that there is no legal obligation to consult NEDLAC, nor does their input determine whether or not the IRP can be promulgated.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) demands that Minister Mantashe immediately release the IRP and take the necessary steps to open up our grid to Independent Power Producers. We need to ensure that South Africa has the electricity it needs for economic growth. We must ease the licensing requirements for small scale renewable generation and allow municipalities to procure energy directly from IPPs. Only in this way will South Africa’s economy stand any chance of recovery.