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Bumpy ride ahead for draft IRP2018 energy plan

Last week I wrote about South Africa’s energy minister happily announcing that the long-overdue revised Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2018) would be published for comment on Friday.

After another short delay, the document was made public on Monday morning this week – that’s forgivable; but with only 60 days afforded for comment, every minute counts!

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
Author: ESI Africa editor, Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl

Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter 2018/08/29 – subscribe today

In his speech, the minister acknowledged that advancements in technology, and the decline in the costs thereof, make it possible for end users to now generate their own electricity. He further informed South Africans that: “For the financial year ending March 2018, the actual total electricity consumed is about 30% less than what was projected in IRP 2010.”

The root cause of these disruptors to the country’s energy map can be found in the elements of decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitalisation – and even democratisation – all of which are destabilising key economic markets as they continue to morph at an exponential rate.

It’s these ‘threats’ that are probably the cornerstone to shaping the IRP2018 – or so we hope.

The initial responses have welcomed the solid renewables stance; however, given the share of the various renewable technologies envisaged by the IRP2018, a concern is around how much storage will be required. While another concern raised is why the emphasis is on a linear energy model (generation-wires-customer) and isn’t being more inclusive of a customer-to-customer model.

Since large power users and the residential markets are now developing co-generation, leveraging embedded generation and investing heavily into energy efficiency programmes, the energy sector is clearly at a junction, which could lead to isolated market segments and not an all-inclusive smart grid.

It’s going to be a fight – even though the energy plan for 2030 includes the decommissioning of coal power plants reaching the end of their life, yesterday Greenpeace Africa activists climbed the Nelson Mandela bridge in Johannesburg to hoist a banner proclaiming “More Coal, More Deaths, No Water” in defiance of the IRP2018’s inclusion of 34,000MW of coal, which makes up 46% of the total installed capacity.

However, cognisant that this is a far too short a period for long-term planning (just over a decade) Radebe stated that the department will undertake detailed studies and stakeholder engagements to better inform the energy mix up until 2050.

The IRP is, after all, a living document.

I had said this last week and will reiterate as this is important for all African countries currently planning their energy mix and preparing for smart grid deployment: “Having an IRP based solidly on a 2018, or even 2020, version of the market will be detrimental to the utility landscape for years to come”.

Read the IRP2018 document here and send your comments to:

  • Postal address: Private Bag X 96, Pretoria, 0001; or
  • By hand: Matimba House, 192 Corner Visagie and Paul Kruger Street, Pretoria; or
  • Via email: IRP.Queries@energy.gov.za

Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter 2018/08/29 – subscribe today

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
Nicolette is the Editor of ESI Africa print journal, ESI-Africa.com and the annual African Power & Energy Elites. She is passionate about placing African countries on the international stage and is driven by the motto "The only way to predict the future is to create it". Join her in creating a sustainable future through articles and multimedia content.