Mantashe in legal wrangle over electricity generation

Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko/ANA Pictures

Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko/ANA Pictures

Published Jul 31, 2020


The government’s promulgated long-term energy plan, which detailed commitments to increase electricity generation to 45 000 megawatts, is facing a court challenge.

Arguing that Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe was not transparent on reasons considered for the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2030 published in October last year, environmental NGO groundWork has launched an application at the North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.

The application was intended to secure an order compelling Mantashe to divulge to groundWork reasons for his decision to promulgate the IRP in its form.

groundWork and other environmental NGOs were engaged in legal battles with government over electricity generation sources they labelled unfriendly to the environment.

The NGOs campaigned for decommissioning of coal plants in favour of renewable technologies.

Their campaign pitted them against critics who warned that shutting down coal stations would leave many people in Mpumalanga towns, especially, unemployed.

The energy mix set out in the IRP entailed drawing an extra 1 500MW of power from coal. An additional 2 500MW of power will come from hydro power, wind will account for an extra 14 400MW power in the grid and 3 000MW new power will be drawn from gas.

Robby Mokgalaka, coal campaign manager at groundWork, revealed in the NGO’s affidavit that their application against Mantashe has been brewing since November last year when they sent the minister letters.

The letters largely sought reasons for the coal and fossil fuel power generation plans detailed in the IRP.

Mantashe was asked, among a range of questions, the reasons for “providing for a 50-year lifespan for existing Eskom coal-fired power stations instead of providing for accelerated retirement of those stations” and why the IRP considered new fossil fuel-based power generation sources.

The NGO said the fossil fuel plans “will lock South Africa into high greenhouse gas emissions for at least the next 30 years”.

Mokgalaka said in the affidavit Mantashe never replied to their questions, hence the application.

“The minister has failed to respond to all these requests. No reasons have been provided.

“This is patently unlawful. groundWork is therefore entitled to compel production of the reasons,” said Mokgalaka.

The department said it was studying the NGO’s court papers and would respond afterwards. However, it gave a strong indication that it will oppose the application.