DMRE defends updated energy roadmap as it comes under fire for fossil fuels

An Eskom coal fired power station. Photo: EPA

An Eskom coal fired power station. Photo: EPA

Published Jan 10, 2024


The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) has defended the assumptions made in the updated energy roadmap after criticism that it was dependent heavily on fossil fuels when the country should be transitioning towards renewables with speed.

The Integrated Resource Plan 2023 (IRP 2023) was published last week for public comments following months of delays and it proposes that there must be a delay in the decommissioning of coal-fired power stations until there is stability in the supply of electricity in the country.

The IRP 2023 looks at two scenarios where the first horizon projects the supply of electricity until 2030 and how best to address the current challenges of power cuts while the second horizon looks at energy supply between 2030 to 2050.

DMRE director-general Jacob Mbele yesterday said one of the interventions identified in Horizon 1 is to accelerate the deployment of dispatchable generation options such as gas to power, in addition to non-supply dispatchable initiatives by business and government.

The IRP2023 sees “power generation by the business community” as only having “a pipeline of projects with a total generation capacity of 10 400MW” excluding projects with no specified location or commercial operation date.

The IRP 2023 envisages South Africa procuring a combination of gas, wind, photovoltaic solar, wind, and battery storage to reduce and ultimately end load shedding.

Mbele said the IRP was proposing to procure 6 000MW of gas — 3 000MW from Eskom, and 3 000MW from independent producers.

He said there was a 3 000MW determination for Coega, for which the Independent Power Producers’ Office has recently issued a Request for Proposal to procure gas to power.

“Obviously the assumption there is that the gas will be LNG, but that we will obviously leave to those developing the various projects. There is work being done at Coega to see how we can bring gas there. There is work being done that Transnet has done at Richards Bay,” Mbele said.

“There is work that various parties are doing around the gas in Mozambique. We know of the local finds and we are aware that various players are talking to each other to see how those gas finds can become options for South Africa.”

Mbele said observations for Horizon 2 were that pathways based on renewable and clean energy technology deliver the desired outcome for decarbonisation, but did not provide security of supply and carry the highest cost to implement.

The draft document of the IRP 2023 was published to solicit public comments on the assumptions, input parameters, scenarios, and observations made, and these will be considered in drafting the final policy adjusted plan which will map out the future energy mix for the country.

Interested and affected persons and organisations were invited to submit their written comments on or before February 23.

Mbele said that assumptions used in the draft IRP 2023 would be made available online before the end of the week, and there would be two public technical workshops to be hosted to enable industry engagement.

The draft IRP 2023 acknowledges that intermittent power outages will continue to plague the South African economy until at least 2028.

Oxford Economics Africa, however, yesterday said the new electricity plan was low on power.

Head of macro Jacques Nel said many think this IRP 2023 was overly optimistic, given Eskom and the energy ministry’s track-record.

Nels said South Africa would likely be dealing with electricity supply problems beyond 2030.

“In our view, the draft IRP is too vague, and poor on critical information and technical assumptions, while the public will want more detail regarding modelling parameters, prices, future demand, and associated supply outcomes,” Nel said.

“ However, conservative assumptions regarding the pickup in distributed generation (industry and households' self-generation), and the fact that IRP 2023 itself could encourage migration off the grid, means that demand pressures could be less severe than currently projected.”