By Antonio Ruffini

28 June 2013 – South African opposition parity the Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow deputy minister of energy, David Ross, says that the country’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010 is out of date and could lead to the building of unneeded power stations at great cost and result in higher electricity prices.

He says that the study, Towards a New Power Plan, commissioned by the National Planning Commission (NPC) indicates however, that the country should consider the delay of the proposed expansion of nuclear power stations. “The plan indicates that more nuclear power would not be needed before at least 2029, and perhaps not until 2040.”

“South Africa’s IRP 2010 plan is therefore out of date and could lead to the building of unneeded power stations at great cost. The 2010 plan cannot continue to be the basis for investment decisions as the study for a new power plan indicates that little further investments in power generation would be needed,” Ross says.

“The DA has called repeatedly for an urgent review of the country’s twenty year energy plan – a continuation of the current plan will result in South Africa being left with surplus, stranded, expensive power plants.”

Ross says that the study by the NPC indicates the following:

  • Growth in electricity demand is still below 2007 levels;
  • Future growth in electricity demand is expected to be lower than those forecast in the 2010 plan;
  • Natural gas generation should be commissioned now, to add extra power to the grid within three years;
  • It is economical to bring imported hydro online as soon as possible;

The IRP was well researched at the time, and there are fears in some quarters that the NPC study, whose authors are suspected of holding an anti-nuclear bias, may create more uncertainty in the country’s already uncertain energy sector policy environment. Concerns have been raised about lowering power capacity expansion expectations in a region where power supply is constrained and is limiting economic growth. Regional growth in electricity demand is expected to remain high over an extended period and electricity is seen to be a major driver for economic and social development. This puts some of the findings of the NPC study into serious question.

In addition, little thought appears to have been given to the nature of South Africa’s ageing power fleet, which if carbon taxes are introduced may not see life extension plans implemented. In such a case, some of the country’s large coal fired power stations would have to be retired in just over a decade.

South Africa’s IRP is meant to be revised every two years, but the department of energy has decided to delay this until a national Integrated Energy Plan has been finalised. It has long been thought by some energy experts that the two should be dovetailed.