Pic credit: news.discovery

Expanding South Africa’s energy capacity is the only way to save the country’s economy, according to the South African Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe.

Addressing a joint sitting of South Africa’s parliament in a debate around the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, minced no words when he pointed out the plan would only work if the country had access to reliable and affordable energy.

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He pointed out his Department is fully implementing the Integrated Resource Plan and will deliver 16,313MW from a mix of energy sources. These include procuring:

  • 2,000MW of emergency power to meet short-term electricity gap which should be connected to the national grid by Jun 2022.
  • 11,813MW from various source: 6,800MW from solar PV and wind; 513 from energy storage; 3,000MW from gas; and 1,500 from coal.

“For this purpose, we gazetted the Section 34 Ministerial Determinations with the intention to urgently connect new generation capacity to the national grid. Requests for Proposals will be issued in December to enable the opening of various bid windows, including bid window 5 of renewable energy,” explained Mantashe. Responses to the request for information for a 2,500MW nuclear build are currently being evaluated.

Self-generation to help the grid and economy

The Department has also enabled 97MW of self-generation for own use through a gazetted amendment of Schedule 2 of the Electricity Act to exempt categories of generation facilities under 1MW and resellers from the requirement to hold a generation licence. “NERSA has already registered 156 self-generation facilities under 1MW, with a total installed capacity of 72MW,” said Mantashe.

That same gazetted amendment gave effect to the provision for distributed generation in the IRP2019 for facilities of 1MW and above, removing the need for ministerial approval for deviation from the IRP before NERSA can process a generation licence application. “To date NERSA has approved 5 applications with a total capacity of 25MW.”

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Gazetted amendments to Electricity Regulation on new generation capacity will also enable municipalities in good financial standing to develop their own power generation projects. The amendments clarify the regime applicable to municipalities when requesting determinations under section 34 of the Electricity Amendment Act.

Mantashe pointed out Eskom is working to improve its maintenance programme, achieve operation and finance stability and unbundle the utility in line with the roadmap.

Accelerating exploration of gas and mining

He said the department has also considered the feasibility of natural gas for economic use in the South Africa market, which includes accelerating the exploration of our own natural gas for domestic gas feedstock. “Investment in infrastructure to import liquefied natural gas (LN) is critical. Therefore, the tabling of the Gas Amendment Bill before this House, when it happens, should be considered against this backdrop.”

Pre-COVID-19 the Department was in the process of consulting stakeholders on the Upstream Petroleum Resources Development Bill but community consultations were halted by lockdown restrictions. Relaxation of restrictions on gatherings should enable to the department to restart these consultations. “Finalisation of the bill will unlock the country’s untapped potential in the upstream oil and gas reserves,” said Mantashe.

He pointed out the mining sector is actively working on facilitating renewed investment through a policy framework which should provide certainty, investment protection and transformation. “We are also giving effect to our commitment to reduce timeframes for mining and prospecting licences. Formalising artisanal mining is being accelerated, thereby creating an avenue to mine sterilised deposits.”