Drama unfolds in the energy space as SA drifts off its agreed path

Eskom and Load shedding... An early morning picture taken at Matla Power Station in Mpumalanga Province. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Eskom and Load shedding... An early morning picture taken at Matla Power Station in Mpumalanga Province. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Published Jun 7, 2023


By Hlathi Zak Madela

Drama unfolds in the energy space as those in charge continue to drift away from the 16 recommendations of the Portfolio Committee on Energy (PCE).

We covered five of these last week in this column.

We are discussing the remaining 12 today.

Let us start with a teaspoon of syrup before we get into a bowl full of citric acid.

One of the recommendations was expediting the finalisation of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).

This was successfully achieved in November 2019 with a view to restoring public confidence and promote policy certainty in the energy sector.

But no sooner had our tastes buds swelled with syrup we experienced endless citric acid.  The PCE decided that the IRP should be reviewed every two years.

In this regard, the current IRP took three-and a-half years to review, but there is no publicly known study that was conducted to inform how the next IRP will be reviewed.

However, the PCE has asked the Energy Department to conduct a socio-economic impact assessment of various energy mix scenarios in preparation for the review of the next IRP. But there is no publicly known socio-economic impact assessment that looks at the various technologies.

The PCE also asked that externalities/environmental impacts of the proposed energy mix should be considered in a meaningful way. However, the renewable energy industry has yet to provide a reasonable solution of how solar panels and wind turbine blades will be disposed of, recycled and/or treated in order to protect the environment.

Meanwhile, the PCE has asked that the finalisation of the Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) and the Gas Utilisation Master Plan (Gump) be expedited. Instead, Gump was reviewed and then opened up for public consultations.

The IEP has not been reviewed since 2016. This is really what is at the centre of the demise of our energy industry.  Proponents of the Renewable Energy Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET IP) have completely infiltrated the country’s energy agenda in the absence of a well-researched updated IEP.

Local government should be included in the IRP planning process and the implementation thereof, at the PCE's request. Despite this, the provincial governments consisting of district and local municipalities are crying that they have not been included in determining their future.

The PCE also stated that the current IRP and all subsequent IRPs should focus more on developing local industries than the reliance on imported technologies. Yet the IRP is fraught with imported renewable energy of wind and solar. In the first three months of the year South Africans spent more than R 3billion of these imported materials.

The PCE asked that alternatives to replace the 2500MW in the event that the Grand Inga hydroelectric project does not come on line in time, be considered. To this end increasing the current 2500 MW new nuclear procurement under decision 8 of the current IRP (the so called a no regret option) to 5000 MW or (6000 MW) proposed by both the Economic Freedom Fighters and Mmusi Maimane’s Build One South Africa have been ignored despite this being implemented by leading economies of the world as replacement programmes of their ageing coal power stations fleets.

The PCE also recommended that the allocation of embedded generation should increase from the current 200MW in the draft IRP to at least 500MW. The South African President went overboard on this recommendation and opened the market to 100MW self generation regulation. This was done beyond the recommendation call.

The PCE recommended that the IRP should make it explicit that both coal and nuclear would remain important elements of South Africa’s energy mix. In the case of coal, new clean coal technologies should be pursued. The Green JET IP lobbyist have taken to the courts to oppose any procurement of new coal, gas and nuclear power.

The PCE asked that the Minister of Energy convene an energy summit to comprehensively discuss and map out the energy future for South Africa. However, the Green JET IP lobby groups hijacked this recommendation for their own narrow ends.

Of all the recommendations that the PCE made to date only one was met, rendering law makers useless. It is quite clear that privately owned IPPs, renewables (wind and solar energies) lobby groups and their NGOs are hellbent to flout the democratic processes that are presided over by the South African PCE. They are all ganging up to demonise coal, gas and nuclear power despite the scientific evidence behind the efficacy of these technologies.

The end goal appears as one hellbent to render the South African state dysfunctional and South Africans poorer by appearing to be promoting so-called "green technologies”, and not necessarily clean technologies.

Hlathi Zak Madela is an executive director of the South African Energy Forum (SAEF). He is a chemical engineering graduate from Wits University with 25 years work experience in the energy industry.

Hlathi Zak Madela is an executive director of the South African Energy Forum.