Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe. FILE PHOTO: Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG - Coal will continue to play a significant role in electricity generation as the country has the resource in abundance, mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe said on Friday.

Mantashe also told a news conference, held a day after South Africa's cabinet approved a new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), that renewable energy combined with storage presented an opportunity to produce distributed power closer to where demand was and to provide off-grid electricity to far-flung areas of the country.

The long-delayed latest version of the IRP, South Africa's policy blueprint for the electricity sector, spells out a proposed energy mix for the country until 2030 and was formulated with input from experts in the sector, academia and the general public.

It comes as state-owned Eskom, which supplies about 95 percent of South Africa's electricity, most of it coal-fired, effected a third day of rotational powercuts on Friday, citing breakdowns in some generating units.

Mantashe said new investments would be directed towards more efficient coal technologies, underground coal gasification and the development of carbon capture and storage to enable the country to continue using coal resources in an environmentally responsible way.

"It must be noted that while the coal’s installed capacity will be lower than current installed base, it will remain the dominant energy supply contributing 59 percent of the energy volumes required to meet demand," he said.

"Nuclear will contribute five percent, hydro eight percent, photovoltaic six percent, wind 18 percent, gas and storage two percent."

He said the government would work with Eskom to ensure the utility complied with the minimum emissions standard over time.

- African News Agency (ANA)