The minister of energy, Jeff Radebe, has published the long-awaited draft of the integrated resource plan (IRP) for electricity (2018) at a media briefing in Pretoria. The details are outlined in this article.
The IRP follows a process which was initially promulgated in 2011. It was, the government said that the time, to be a “living plan” with regular updates. However, the plan has not been updated until now, officially, although an early draft was presented by a former energy minister.
That plan drew a great deal of criticism from the energy industry – especially those involved with renewable energy technologies – because of the limitations set on wind and solar generation. These limits were seen to be unrealistic and unnecessary in the light of massive cost reductions in these technologies in recent years. The draft has the approval of the South African government, Radeba said, and is released for public comment.
The minister’s speech
The National Development Plan (NDP) identifies the need for South Africa to invest in a strong network of economic infrastructure designed to support the country’s medium- and long-term economic and social objectives. Energy infrastructure is a critical component that underpins economic activity and growth across the country; it needs to be robust and extensive enough to meet industrial, commercial and household needs.
The promulgated IRP, commonly referred to as the IRP 2010 is currently being used to roll out electricity infrastructure development in line with Ministerial Determinations issued under Section 34 of the Electricity Regulation Act.
The electricity generation and distribution landscape in South Africa is changing at a rapid pace compared to the period before 2010. In keeping to our climate change commitments, the country has also introduced renewable energy through independent power producers. Technology advancements and the decline in cost make it possible for end users to now generate their own electricity. Increasing electricity prices have also made substitutes such LPG a viable alternative for cooking and heating.
Electricity demand is therefore no longer captive to the national grid (Eskom or municipalities) which impacts supply and demand planning.
As indicated in my engagement with business, labour and community representatives at NEDLAC on Friday, rising electricity prices are of concern to us as they threaten to reverse our energy access gains. Many of our people are struggling to pay for the services and are therefore reverting back to using wood for cooking and so forth. This is not the case only in rural areas but also in urban areas. These cost pressures do not only affect households but they also affect industry.
I am inundated with requests for intervention from energy intensive companies on the verge of closing down due to high electricity costs. I am happy to share that in June I approved a framework developed in consultation with the Regulator (NERSA) which enables Eskom and the NERSA to consider temporary special pricing agreements which assist in avoiding these companies from closing down and jobs being lost. These I have to emphasise will also assist with Eskom falling electricity sales volumes.
It is therefore in this context that our electricity planning philosophy aims to minimise the cost of electricity while keeping up with our environmental commitments.
A number of assumptions used in the IRP 2010 have since changed or not materialised. The following are noticeable changes:
The Department started with the IRP review and update process in 2015. The review and update process had four milestones:
Following Cabinet approval in November 2016, the Department published the assumptions for public consultation. A preliminary base case or reference case was also published but for information.
Key comments received from those consultations were mainly on the consultation process, the projected electricity demand, assumed technology costs, as well as the imposing of annual build limits on renewable technologies.
The public during the consultation process asked for another opportunity to comment on the updated IRP before final publication and that is the reason we are releasing the report today for inputs and comments.
The electricity demand forecast published then was said to be outdated and not aligned to the prevailing economic conditions. The demand forecast was revised accordingly and detailed report is available on the website of the Department.
The technology costs used in the plan have also been updated accordingly. The concerns raised about the constraining of renewables have also been addressed by including as one of the scenarios tested; a case where annual built limits on renewables are removed.
In summary, the report we are publishing today has, where applicable, taken into account public input and comments on the assumptions. I would like to thank all those who took their time to submit input or comments.
The Department spent the period after consultations modelling and analysing the various scenarios and their impact on the energy mix going into the future. Scenarios were analysed in line with the objectives of IRP which is to provide electricity infrastructure plan that aims to ensure security of supply while minimising cost of supply, water usage and environmental impacts.
The scenarios tested include:
At a high level, the review of the IRP undertaken indicates that the pace and scale of new capacity developments needed up to year 2030 must be curtailed compared to what was projected in the IRP 2010.
Without a policy intervention, some of the technologies in the IRP 2010 together with new technologies will not be deployed as the “Least Cost” plan contains PV, wind and gas only. Imposing annual build limits on renewables does not impact the total installed capacity of renewable energy technology for the period up to 2030; and there is significant change in the energy mix post 2030 which is mainly driven by decommissioning of old coal power plant that reach their end of life.
While the IRP review considered a period up to year 2050, the approach taken in the draft updated IRP is to adopt a plan for the period ending 2030 and for detailed studies and engagements to be undertaken to better inform the energy mix or path post 2030.
This approach we believe provides the necessary policy certainty while creating the space for all of us to engage in detail on the impending energy transition and the options available to us as South Africa. The engagements will ensure that the transition we undertake is a “just transition” and is inclusive.
Some of the studies we have identified already include:
The recommended plan uses the least cost plan as starting point. The least cost plan being a plan without renewable energy constraints. The following policy adjustments have been incorporated into the recommended plan for the period up to 2030:
Table 1: Adjusted plan with resultant installed capacity mix.
|Technology||New additional capacity||Resultant installed capacity||% of total installed capacity|
|Coal||1000 MW||34 000 MW||46|
|Hydro||2500 MW||4696 MW||6|
|Pumped storage||–||2912 MW||4|
|PV||5670 MW||7958 MW||10|
|Wind||8100 MW||11 442 MW||15|
|Gas||8100 MW||11 930 MW||16|
|Totals||25 370 MW||75 098 MW||100|
Although the installed capacity of coal will be lower than the current installed base, it will still contribute more than 65% of the energy volumes with nuclear contributing about 4%.
A closer monitoring of the IRP update assumptions by the Department through the Medium Term System Adequacy Outlook filed with Nersa annually by Eskom’s system operator will ensure we are alive to the prevailing supply and demand balance and we can accelerate or decelerate implementation if necessary or even revise the plan timeously.
In conclusion, there are a number of implementation issues brought about by the changing electricity industry that we will also have to look at in details outside of the IRP update process. These include levels of participation of the previously marginalised South Africans in energy sector, the structure of the industry taking into account that electricity demand is no longer total captive to the national grid, the sustainability of licenced electricity distributors, etc.
We therefore appeal to the public and the stakeholders to engage with the report we are publishing with the understanding that a “just transition” requires that we while we move with speed to respond to the changing landscape, we take calculated steps to ensure we leave no one behind.
The document is available for comments for a period of 60 days starting today. We urge you not to wait for the 60 days but to provide us your written comments and proposals with supporting data or evidence where possible as soon as you have them ready to help minimise the time to finalise the IRP and therefore create policy certainty.
Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: EE plublishers