Adopt renewables with caution, says IPP head

South Africa can ill afford to dive into renewable energy head first without considering the socioeconomic impact of de-commissioning traditional energy forms. Instead, the country may have to consider a range of hybrids.  

This is according to Karen Breytenbach, head of the Department of Energy’s Independent Power Producers Office, who was speaking to delegates at the Energy Week South Africa Summit in Cape Town on Wednesday morning.

Wednesday marked the second day of the summit, where the energy industry, government, regulators and potential investors all met under one roof.

The summit follows Energy Minister Jeff Radebe's publication of the latest version of Integrated Resources Plan.

The plan has been roundly welcomed, but critics – including the Democratic Alliance – have questioned the continued presence of coal.

The summit also comes two weeks after Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe said government would introduce a new law especially for oil and gas energy sectors next year, likely after the elections.

Breytenbach told delegates that the Department of Energy was working on a serious plan to transition to renewables, including liquefied natural gas, in a way that would best benefit the country.

"When looking for clean energy, you have to take into account the fact that people are involved. You can't leap from coal one day [to] clean energy the next.

"Some people have lived on coal mines their entire lives and their skills surround that," said Breytenbach.

Breytenbach said the IPP office would look "carefully" at what IRP stipulates, saying the country may consider developing different "hybrid" energy systems for in different areas in the country.

She said it was best to "put the building blocks in place first" for industrialisation of gas to allow for  government offset and any risks that may occur.

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