HomeIndustry SectorsBusiness and marketsIRP, a balancing act for South Africa’s energy mix

IRP, a balancing act for South Africa’s energy mix

It is finally here: South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) announced last week has given hope for the future even as loadshedding once again hangs over our heads.

Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter on 2019/10/23

I joined the chorus singing praise for the inclusion of renewable energy in the plan; giving the IRP a good chance of delivering a diverse energy profile.

The blueprint positions distributed generation as a clear winner as the need for ministerial deviations for the licensing of these plants above 1MW raises the annual allocation for embedded generation to 500MW and places no yearly limit on the allocation between 2019 and 2022.

In fact, the IRP only states that the allocation till 2022 will be determined by the extent of the short-term capacity and energy gap. Even as a late start for us, this progressive step will open the market for solar PV and wind resources but not concentrated solar power (CSP), which is disappointing.

With our high level of irradiance, CSP can generate power well after the sun sets and typically has a short commission timeframe. The industry, through the Solar Thermal Energy Research Group, is also conducting ground-breaking studies into the effective use of mirrors and energy storage.

Perhaps this technology needs a branding push to gain political favour?

The reappearance of the Grand Inga project has political sway. The project, which is over budget and, like our coal-fired power new build, stretching beyond its deadline, is a sceptical inclusion. There is no indication that the Inga hydropower project will ever materialise even though, when fully commissioned, South Africa could hugely benefit. 

The question I pose to the Minister is whether assisting the region by giving support to the Inga project is the best way forward when we have considerable solar and wind capacity that could be sold across the region. There is even scope for the proposed small-reactor nuclear build to benefit the region.

As the IRP is a ‘living’ blueprint, I look forward to industry engagement with the ministry to open the market even further for aggressive growth.

Until next week.

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
As the Editor of ESI Africa, my passion is on sustainability and placing African countries on the international stage. I take a keen interest in the trends shaping the power & water utility market along with the projects and local innovations making headline news. Watch my short weekly video on our YouTube channel ESIAfricaTV and speak with me on what has your attention.