Confusion still reigns over whether the government has adopted the National Development Plan (NDP), but the country’s long-term planning tool gives broad backing to shale gas exploitation.
South Africa should seek to develop these resources “provided the overall economic and environmental costs and benefits outweigh those associated with South Africa’s dependence on coal or with the alternative of nuclear power”, the plan states. “The national value of this resource needs to be maximised.”
Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Collins Chabane told a post-cabinet briefing on Friday that ministers did not have to rubber-stamp the plan – overseen by Planning Minister Trevor Manuel – because it had already been presented to Parliament.
Chabane said that if there were “inconsistencies” with existing government policies, the plan would have “an overriding effect”.
The NDP says that even if economically recoverable resources “are much lower than currently estimated, shale gas as a transitional fuel has the potential to contribute a very large proportion of South Africa’s electricity needs”.
For example, it says that exploitation of a 24 trillion cubic feet resource would power about 20 gigawatts of combined cycle gas turbines, generating about 130 000 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year over 20 years, or “more than half of current electricity production”. – Donwald Pressly