JOHANNESBURG - Following Energy Minister David Mahlobo’s unexpected announcement that the cabinet had approved the integrated resource plan (IRP), all eyes are now on the government gazette that will give details of the allocations to the different technologies. 

Mahlobo made the announcement at this week’s energy indaba in Midrand, Johannesburg. He said the different technology types in the IRP2010-2030 had been retained. These included nuclear. 

However, he said as a result of reduced electricity demand since the promulgation of the plan in March 2011, electricity demand had fallen. 

“The economy is not in good shape. We are all cognisant of this. Our mantra is pace, scale, affordability and environmental responsiveness.” 

He said these would affect the allocations of the different technologies including nuclear.  “What is changing is the scale and volume. We will no longer do the 9 600MW, it has to come down,” he said. 

The details of the plan will be in a government gazette to be published later. In addition to the reduced electricity demand, the prices of some of the renewable energy technologies have fallen. 

The Department of Energy in October last year started a review of the IRP2010-2030, which laid out the proposed generation new build fleet for South Africa for the period 2010 to 2030. 

The department published the revised plan, which took into consideration a number of assumptions such as demand forecasts, existing plant performance, supply technology costs and decommissioning schedules. 

Energy expert Andrew Kenny on Friday said he had expected a reduction in the allocations of the different technologies.  “With the economy doing so badly, this was expected,” said Kenny.

The IRP2010-2030 provided for 9 600MW of nuclear, 6 300MW of coal, 17 800MW of renewables, and 8 900MW of “other” generation sources.  

The first nuclear reactor, in terms of the initial plan, was supposed to come on stream in 2023. But the draft IRP, released in October last year, indicated that the first nuclear reactor would only be required by 2037. 

In several instances at the energy indaba, Mahlobo said he would not favour one energy technology over another. 

“I am the Minister of Energy… not renewable or nuclear. Ours is to get the game to be fair,” said Mahlobo. He has come under scrutiny amid allegations that he favoured the implementation of the nuclear procurement programme. 

“I will not fall into a narrative that I did not create,” Mahlobo said this week. 

Mahlobo said nuclear was indeed part of South Africa’s energy mix.  “We are going to expand nuclear,” he said. 

He said the government would also not exclude coal. However, he said coal faced a number of “constraints” including water usage carbon capture and efficiency. He said government would increase capacity from gas sources “in a big way” because Eskom was expected to decommission some of its older power stations from 2023. “Gasification must happen,” said Mahlobo.

Meanwhile, civic society groups demonstrated outside the venue of the Indaba on Thursday in a bid to block the nuclear programme. 
The organisations also alleged that there had been insufficient consultation. The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has slammed the mooted nuclear programme, saying it was unaffordable and unnecessary. 

“We do not need it. There are cheaper alternatives like renewables,” said Outa.