Minister Gwede Mantashe told the Windaba 2019 annual conference in Cape Town yesterday that the promulgation of the updated IRP was imminent. Photo: Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has assured coal producers that the government would accommodate them when it adopts the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for cost-effective and clean energy supply.

Mantashe told the Windaba 2019 annual conference in Cape Town yesterday that the promulgation of the updated IRP was imminent. 

He reiterated that the IRP underscored South Africa's continued commitment to invest in renewable energy as part of the energy mix to connect 20GW of renewable power to the grid by 2030.

“There is no reason for the sector to go to war for space. Space is created in the IRP,” Mantashe said.

“Our energy policy is premised on an energy mix as diverse as coal and wind, among others. Coal, imported hydro, nuclear, wind, solar, biomass, storage and energy efficiency are the technology options that have been weighed on their respective merits. 

“We must disabuse ourselves of the polemic to pit renewables against coal and nuclear, and vice versa. We should exploit our vast coal deposits through technological innovation.”

Last week, Mantashe met with coal firms that supply Eskom to reduce coal prices in a bid to lower energy costs and boost the mining sector.

Mantashe and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan have also asked independent power producers (IPPs) to drop electricity tariffs.

Eskom has been paying R2.02 for the weighted average tariff per kilowatt-hour IPPs in the first round of contracts, but selling the same units for 90 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The latest IRP draft made a provision for 9 980MW of wind energy and 7 474MW of solar PV, which makes up a total of over 17.5GW of new capacity of renewable power by 2030.

Mantashe also assured the wind energy market that it was part of the solution.

He said since the inception of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (Reipppp), the government had successfully increased the contribution of clean energy from 0 percent in 2010 to more than 4.5 percent within five years. The Reipppp programme has procured 3 366MW from 36 independent wind power producers between 2011 and March this year.

“The introduction of wind and other renewable energy technologies offers an exciting prospect for the development of our energy-starved rural areas. Isolated communities, where the deployment of grid infrastructure is difficult and costly, can be electrified,” Mantashe said.

“Grid security can also be improved simply by diversifying the generation points through smaller generators spread across the South African landscape.”

South African Wind Energy Association chief executive, Ntombifuthi Ntuli, said a strong political will had been a crucial ingredient in the achievements in the wind energy generation.

“Besides strengthening our overall energy security, the South African wind energy sector has attracted R80.6 billion worth of investments since 2011, of which foreign direct investment accounted for R13.2bn,” Ntuli said.

“The value of the leadership demonstrated by the government at the moment cannot be understated – it is directly driving the return of investor confidence.”