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As South Africa awaits the release of the updated IRP 2017, the country is haunted by the concern that it will be implemented without public participation.

The latest Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), although eagerly awaited, was scheduled for February 2018; however, at the Energy Indaba held last week, Energy Minister David Mahlobo indicated that the policy document would be gazetted ahead of time.

The IRP is the country's future roadmap for electricity planning and there has been conversation among interested parties and dinner tables around the country as to which energy sources the country should adopt.

Specific interest lies in the role that coal, nuclear and renewables will play – and how each will either complement or detract from the other.

Implied or expressed?

The Life After Coal Campaign and Greenpeace Africa say they had met with Mahlobo at the Energy Indaba‚ who indicated to them that there would be no further public participation on the contents of the IRP for electricity‚ its approval by Cabinet‚ and its subsequent publication.

Indeed, adding to the nation’s heightened sense of drama as the governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), is due for a change in leadership.

Prior to this unofficial statement,  South Africa’s official opposition , the Democratic Alliance (DA), said on Monday it would seek legal advice on the approval of government’s new IRP, which includes considerable nuclear procurement.

In his speech, Mahlobo explicitly stated: “Delegates, I wish to re-state that Nuclear remains an integral part of the Energy Mix of the Republic. As I said earlier in the conversation, I had spoken with Mr Mabuza [CEO, Council for Geosciences] and Mr Xuza [Rocket Scientist], we will implement the nuclear expansion at a pace and scale that our country can afford.” Read Mahlobo's full speech here

IRP exposing nuclear

The apparently rushed approval of the policy blueprint with no official Cabinet announcement and without further public participation was suspect, says DA energy spokesperson Gavin Davis.

“This hasty approval of the IRP under the cover of darkness is a full three months before the February 2018 deadline set by former Minister Kubayi, and without the second round of public participation that was promised,” he said.

Davis said it served to cement perceptions that former state security  Minister Mahlobo was appointed as energy minister in October to fast track the nuclear deal.

“And rumours that money has already changed hands with Russian bidders will only intensify,” added Davis.

“We are therefore in the process of consulting our legal team to assess whether the new IRP has been approved lawfully, and what steps can be taken in this regard.”

According to Mahlobo, the IRP retains a commitment to a mix of coal, renewable and nuclear energy, but at smaller volumes that previously envisaged due to a drop in demand.

“We will no longer have 9.6GW of new nuclear, it has come down,” Mahlobo was quoted as saying, adding that the full details of the plan would be available on publication.

This week, speculation runs high as to whether the IRP will be published in the Government Gazette before the ANC Elective Conference takes place; an event that could bring about a change in political direction –and with it a halt to the current energy policy, specifically nuclear. Read more: Nuclear reaction to cabinet reshuffle – South Africa


Featured image: 123rf