Government’s energy source mix blueprint has elicited mixed reactions, hailed for the increased move towards wind-generated and renewable sources of energy, but slated for the unrelenting reliance on coal-based electricity.
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe this week announced his plan for power to help keep the lights on in a fresh bout of load shedding.
Though wind and renewable energy sources will make up a significant portion of power generation in the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), ecologically hostile coal-based power generation is here to stay, Mantashe announced.
For the period up to 2030, the 2019 IRP outlines the energy source mix of 1,500MW of power generation from coal, 2,500MW from hydro, 6,000MW from photovoltaic, 14,400MW from wind, 2,088MW from storage and 3,000MW from gas.
Unpacking the energy generation master plan in Pretoria yesterday, Mantashe said although the installed capacity of coal would be lower than the current installed base, it would remain the dominant energy supply, contributing 59% of the energy required. He said nuclear would contribute 5%, hydro 8%, photovoltaic 6%, wind 18% and gas/storage 2%.
The IRP says coal will continue to play a significant role in electricity generation as it was the largest base of the installed generation capacity and makes up the largest share of energy generated.
This comes against the backdrop of a study that has found that the town of Kriel in Mpumalanga has the second-largest sulphur dioxide emissions in the world.
The results of the study, commissioned by Greenpeace released in August, singled out Mpumalanga as the largest sulphur dioxide pollution hotspot in Africa due to emissions from the province’s 12 coal-fired power stations.
Due to the design life of the existing coal fleet and the abundance of resources, the IRP says new investments will be made in more efficient coal technologies to comply with climate and environmental requirements.
The plan’s clear transitioning towards cleaner green energy production was received with praise, with the South African Wind Energy Association (Sawea) saying government has listened to their inputs.
“We are happy with the wind energy’s apportionments in the energy mix, as we transition to a clean energy future. With the bulk of the increase coming from renewable sources, it is a promising sign for our country as it faces pressure to reduce its carbon emissions and provide cheaper power,” said Sawea chief executive Ntombifuthi Ntuli.
She said the wind industry views the commitment to 1.6GW per annum as a positive step by government as this allocation would allow original equipment manufacturers and first-tier suppliers to commit to local manufacturing of certain components, which would contribute directly to job creation.
The IRP also provides for the extension of the lifespan of Koeberg by 20 years, up until 2044, as well as additional new nuclear capacity. – firstname.lastname@example.org
Organisations ‘appalled’ about reliance on coal
The Life After Coal Campaign (LAC) and Greenpeace Africa (GP) said yesterday in a joint statement the organisations were “appalled” to note the new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) “forced” in 1,500MW of “dangerous, expensive and unnecessary new coal-based electricity”, namely 750MW in 2023 and another 750MW in 2027.
Reasons for the decision to include new coal capacity in the IRP will be requested from Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act and the response would inform legal action, the organisations said.
This is an addition of 500MW since the last draft made available to the public in August 2018.
The intensifying climate strikes and the United Nations secretary-general’s repeated appeal for “no new coal power plants after 2020” serve as a stark warning to South Africa: the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions must be prioritised if there is to be hope of addressing the existential threat of climate change.
“President Cyril Ramaphosa promised action to address the climate crisis, but this IRP suggests that this promise was empty,” the organisations said.
“There is no reasonable basis for building new coal plants when technology and costs are in favour of renewables and flexible generation,” said Makoma Lekalakala of EarthLife Africa.
“We no longer need to choose between clean and cheap electricity – clean energy is affordable, healthy and feasible.”
The effects of the climate crisis (droughts, floods, rising temperatures and fires) already impact countless lives in southern Africa and cost the fiscus billions.
This was quite apart from the severe health impacts caused by coal-fired power stations.
Happy Khambule of Greenpeace Africa noted the IRP’s “irrational” increase in the use of coal would result in more deadly toxic air, while wasting precious water resources and pushing the country closer to the brink of “complete climate chaos”.
It is understood the IRP’s allocation for new coal is intended predominantly for the two “preferred bidder” coal independent power producers – Thabametsi (Limpopo) and Khanyisa (Mpumalanga Highveld).
The projects face a mountain of obstacles in relation to their environmental approvals and their funding.
Sipho Mabena / The Citizen