Coal gets minister’s support 

Mantashe outlines energy mix for SA going forward

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe on Friday walked a fine tightrope in balancing the country’s energy needs – backing coal to still be a dominant player while giving more latitude to cleaner energy to come to the fore.

The much-awaited Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which provides a blueprint for the envisaged energy mix for the country until 2030, saw coal get the lion’s share of the country’s energy demands.

Mantashe said there must be a just transition towards less carbon-emitting technologies. Workers and communities in affected areas must, as far as possible, not be left worse off.

“The IRP supports a diversified energy mix. Coal will continue to play a significant role in electricity generation as the country has the resource in abundance. New investments will be directed towards more efficient coal technologies,” Mantashe said.

“While the coal’s installed capacity will be lower than current installed base, it will remain the dominant energy supply contributing 59% of the energy volumes required to meet demand. Nuclear will contribute 5%, hydro 8%, photovoltaic 6%, wind 18%, gas and [carbon] storage 2%.”

The plan, which was approved by cabinet on Wednesday and gazetted on Friday, came just days after the country’s energy needs became pronounced as power utility Eskom implemented stage 2 load-shedding.

Professor Ant on Eberhard from UCT, a member of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s task team on Eskom, said Mantashe’s IRP announcement
was a missed opportunity to support Ramaphosa’s investment drive.

“It doesn’t help to simply say here is the electricity plan, investors come. Government has to initiate competitive procurements,” Eberhard said.

The IRP is not only seen as an energy mix plan, but a blueprint for investment. It demonstrates how the transition to a more renewable energy mix will look from a central planning point of view.

Growth in South Africa’s population, economic development and urbanisation have increased the demand for electricity in recent years, but growth in Eskom’s generation capacity has not kept pace, with aging coal power plants still making up much of supply.

The future of coal in the country’s energy mix has been a hotly debated matter in the past few years.

The National Treasury in August recommended that Eskom sell its aging coal-fired stations for R450-billion.

However, the plan faced great resistance from the ANC’s alliance partners the SACP and Cosatu, and some “radical economic transformation” elements in the ruling party.

Mantashe himself is on record opposing the plan to dispose of coal stations.

By Kabelo Khumalo

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