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                                  Updated IRP is on its way, but will

        by Roger Lilley, Now Media it really be any different?

             he minister of mineral resources and energy, Gwede   cables and various electrical accessories and parts, frames and
             Mantashe, announced recently that his department is   clamps for solar PV panels, among many others.
        Trevising the government’s integrated resource plan (IRP) for   Regarding the concept of clean coal, the minister should be
        electricity.                                           given the facts. To make coal “clean” would be so costly that
           The IRP 2019 was published in October 2019 as an update   it would be impossible to offer electricity at affordable tariffs.
        of the first plan which was published in 2011. According to the   Although there are processes to capture and possibly reuse some
        preamble on the Government Gazette in which the IRP 2019 was   of the carbon emitted from the burning of coal, the cost of such
        published, the plan is to be a “living plan to be revised regularly”.   equipment is prohibitive.
        South Africa waited for eight years for the first revision, so it’s   Other pollution-mitigating equipment, such as flue-gas
        encouraging to hear that the next revision will be published soon.  desulphurisation (FGD) is also very expensive. At Kusile, for
           Although the minister indicated that the revision would include   instance, the only power station where FGD is being installed, the
        an intensive reassessment of the plan’s assumptions, one wonders,   cost, at R39-billion South African, is almost 50% of the original
        based on his public comments, if the revised version will differ   budget for the entire power station.
        substantially from the existing version.                  In terms of the country’s commitment to reducing greenhouse
           His ongoing support for new coal (which he refers to as “clean   gases (i.e., air pollution) studies have shown that in South Africa,
        coal”) and new nuclear power plants, and his seeming distrust of   most of our air pollution emanates from the coal-fired power
        renewables, leads us to believe that clean coal and nuclear will   stations. This is particularly true for the Mpumalanga province
        remain in the new plan.                                which has 12 power stations, all spewing out noxious gases and
           Mantashe says that load shedding is a “burning issue” for   deadly particulates day and night.
        the DMRE. This surely means that he wants to address the issue   But beyond all this, and because of this, funding for new
        and deal with it decisively. Surely then, quick-to-build additional   coal will be very difficult to find and therefore very expensive.
        electricity generation should be his first choice.     Commercial banks have stated publicly that they will not fund new
           New coal-fired electricity generating plants would take ten   coal-fired power generation projects, so if funding is found it is
        years or more before coming on line, and new nuclear would take   likely to be expensive.
        even longer. When we consider how long it took for Medupi to   When one considers Mantashe’s other pet technology, nuclear,
        be completed and, seeing that Kusile is only two-thirds complete,   it is our contention that South Africa simply does not have the
        new coal – “clean” or otherwise – is a poor choice if we want load   time or the money to entertain the notion of building new nuclear
        shedding to end soon.                                  power stations.
           Rather, the department would do better to continue to   Gas is another technology the minister seems keen on. While
        encourage the private sector to roll out more and more renewable   converting a coal-fired power station to gas-fired might be a good
        energy projects. Energy storage is now reaching the point of   option in the short-term, the cost and delays in sourcing a reliable
        economic viability so that the major criticism of renewable energy   supply of natural gas is likely to pose a real challenge.
        – that it provides a variable supply of electricity which is unsuited   We need reliable, affordable electricity now. The economy
        for use where constant loads must be met – is no longer valid.   needs to grow. Jobs need to be created. The ongoing shortage of
           Furthermore, the minister is constrained by the government’s   electricity is South Africa’s greatest hurdle.
        objective to provide affordable electricity, reduce greenhouse   In our opinion, the revised IRP should reflect the reality of
        gas emissions, reduce water consumption, diversify electricity   South Africa’s energy needs now and into the future. We need to
        generation sources and improve localisation and regional   meet our commitment to reduce air, water and ground pollution,
        development.                                           so we should phase out coal mining for power generation
           Moreover, these objectives can best be met by a localised   purposes, decommission and rehabilitate old coal-fired power
        renewable energy sector where components, which can be made   stations and focus on moving towards a truly clean electricity
        locally, are made here. This includes towers for wind turbines,   sector.

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