3 June 2010 – The need to diversify SA’s energy sources and affordability will be the guiding principles in the development of SA’s long-term energy plan, says Department of Energy director-general Nelisiwe Magubane.
Ms Magubane’s comments yesterday set the parameters ahead of next week’s "stakeholder plenary session" on the Integrated Resource Plan 2 process, which could easily turn into a mudslinging match between advocates of the various energy technologies, especially the pro- and anti-nuclear lobbies. The resource plan is the blueprint for SA’s energy for the next 20 years. It will clarify, among other matters, the country’s future sources of energy, who will be responsible for them, and at what cost.
Ms Magubane said her department had received about 400 comments and 31 submissions. Most of the comments were from environmental organisations. Energy security and diversity of energy sources were the key guiding principles for the department, Ms Magubane said. "We need to set the principles. It is not wise to rely on one energy source. But while we diversify our energy sources, we must also ensure that our energy remains competitive and that the industry creates jobs," she said.
The principles would enable the department, which is the custodian of the Integrated Resource Plan 2 process, to make the tough decisions, she said. The process is an opportunity for various technologies, including nuclear and renewable energy sources, to find a place in SA’s energy landscape, which is still dominated by power utility Eskom.
However, the plan is likely to fuel running battles between environmental groupings and nuclear lobbyists. But the department appears unfazed by the possibility of being caught in the crossfire.
Ms Magubane said it was government policy that nuclear power should be part of the energy mix. "I am a bureaucrat. I do not worry about ideology. I apply government policy." She said that in the period between 2020 and 2030, some of Eskom’s power stations would reach the end of their lifetime, creating the urgent need for a source of baseload electricity. "Coal is unlikely to be the choice," she said.
By year-end the government will have made a decision about the use of nuclear energy. She said the department was realistic about what can be achieved through the Integrated Resource Plan process. "It is a plan, not a dream," Ms Magubane said. For that reason, the department would prefer proven technologies, she said.
Ompi Aphane, the department’s deputy director-general for electricity, nuclear and clean energy, said last month the plan would be promulgated in September. Former Eskom CE Ian McRae called last month for the inclusion of nuclear power in SA’s energy mix, saying this would contribute to its longer-term energy supply.