Department sheds more light on renewable energy plans

Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm. (Supplied)
Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm. (Supplied)

Cape Town – The Department of Energy said on Tuesday it will do a modelling on renewable energy in an unconstrained scenario as an electricity generation option.
Briefing Parliament’s Standing Committee on Energy about the updated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the department’s chief director Jacob Mbele said renewable energy will be considered without constraints to test how readily it will be available as part of South Africa’s energy mix.

READ: SA bets on gas, renewables for biggest chunk of energy capacity

Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson in November last year said the assumption of the availability of renewable energy had to be constrained, as there are network constraints and storage is still in the early days of development.

She was however challenged by various energy analysts and experts on renewable energy for not taking into account the array of new developments and opportunities available.

How the IRP was drafted
Mbele in his submission to Parliament explained the process the department followed in drafting the IRP.
The draft plan was based on a number of key assumptions - such as the demand forecast - which were put together by Eskom and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. The economic parameters were based on information from National Treasury, technology and fuel costs, as well as other assumptions such as CO2 emission constraints, renewable energy annual build limits and existing energy plant performance.
“But the plan we’ve come up with is not exact and not about absolutes,” Mbele said, “and we must still test its robustness.”

READ: Eskom: We did not usurp nuclear build from Energy Dept

During question time, DA spokesperson on energy Gordan Mackay said it seems that Parliament’s oversight role was “passed”.

“The IRP was launched in November and we only get to see it in February,” he said.

Who will be responsible for energy policy?
He also wanted clarification on who will ultimately be responsible for energy policy in South Africa. “Is it the Department of Energy, or Eskom? Can we have certainty that Eskom will adhere to these plans once signed off?” Mackay asked.  
“Government makes policy and Eskom implements it,” said Ompi Aphane, deputy director general in the department. “There’s no uncertainty about it. Eskom won’t make policy in parallel.”

SA's nuclear build programme
Fikile Majola, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Energy, said Parliament needs clarity on the implementation date of the nuclear build programme.
“Eskom says we start in 2024 and you say 2037. Which is it?”
Deputy Energy Minister Thembisile Majola responded, saying Eskom is not a government department. “It’s accountable to a department (which is energy). But we do need their cooperation.”

READ: Renewables have no financial benefits for Eskom - Koko

She said it’s important for the Department of Energy to have a discussion with Eskom on the IRP and not to dismiss the power utility’s concerns about electricity needs. “We should analyse the figures they put on the table,” Majola said.

MPs also wanted to know when they will see a finalised version of the IRP, to which Majola responded it is highly unlikely that the process would be completed before year-end.

“I can assure you there will be very robust discussions about this in Cabinet.”

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