Despite assurances from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s National Energy Crisis Committee and the subsequent January 2023 update on the implementation of the Energy Action Plan by the Presidency, that the review of the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) will be concluded by the end of March 2023, Minister of Energy, Gwede Mantashe, is on course to miss this self-imposed target. There has been no official communication from DMRE on the status of the review or whether an updated IRP will be released by midnight today.
Without an updated IRP, South Africa will be forced to continue relying on the outdated energy assumptions of IRP 2019 do not reflect what must be done to address the ongoing electricity crisis. Mantashe has repeatedly failed to produce an updated IRP, thereby compromising the country’s ability to effectively make costed projections on electricity demand and the energy sources needed to address it.
The first IRP was released in 2011 (referred to as IRP 2010) under the proviso that it will be updated every two years. IRP renewal windows were missed over the course of the last decade and the latest version, IRP 2019, has remained unchanged for four years. A major shortcoming of IRP 2019 is that it still pushes for prioritised investments in new coal power plants and nuclear energy, a complete contrast to the current reality of increased participation by independent power producers within the renewable energy space.
Mantashe’s stonewalling and refusal to release an updated IRP is hardly surprising, as he has spent much of his tenure as Energy Minister stubbornly advocating for expensive or climate damaging energy sources such as clean coal, nuclear and gas. His intransigence is reinforced by labour unions who demand that coal generation remains the largest component in the energy mix, despite growing evidence that renewable energy has become cheaper and could get South Africa out of the current electricity crisis a lot quicker.
The DA holds the brief that an updated IRP should reflect South Africa’s current energy realities and projected energy demands by:
- Increasing projections on electricity that can be generated from renewable energy sources to reflect increasing capacity from IPPs who have been approved in all the bid windows;
- Changing baseline assumptions on baseload from coal and nuclear towards renewable energy sources and dispatchable batteries;
- Institutionalising rooftop solar as a key source of embedded power generation;
- Opening up the energy generation market from a single seller to a multi-seller dispensation to facilitate competition and price rationalisation; and
- Increasing investment in grid capacity to support IPP projects.
Updating the IRP was one of the key performance targets that Mantashe agreed to in his performance agreement. That he is still the Minister of Energy after repeatedly failing this target, is as much an indictment on Ramaphosa himself and the internecine factional politics within the ANC.