Minister says Cabinet has approved an updated IRP — but questions remain unanswered and anxieties multiply (Ed. note: the Cabinet subsequently failed to confirm this, and still hasn’t)
At the end of 2017 there were strong indications from the minister of energy about the finalisation of a very important planning document. Around the country an audience took its seat, a drum roll started and the MC said the actors were on stage. But the curtain never lifted and the audience is still waiting and wondering what is going on behind the scenes.
The document is the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which determines what electricity infrastructure will be built and when and whether or not SA will move towards a sustainable, equitable and affordable energy future.
It not only affects the government’s environment and climate change commitments but it will directly affect citizens’ wallets.
For the middle class, unnecessarily high electricity prices will be an annoyance, but for millions of low-income households it will determine how many days a month they can pay for lighting.
Very soon after David Mahlobo took office as the third minister of energy in 2017, there was talk of fast-tracking the new IRP "with immediate effect". The current IRP is from 2010. The seemingly endless process of updating it has been dragging on for more than seven years. There was suspicion that this was a last-ditch attempt by the Zuma administration to seal a new nuclear-build programme before the ANC’s national conference in December 2017.
If more nuclear power plants are to be built in SA, they would need to be in the updated plan. …
… There is also no requirement for the Department of Energy to show how public comments were incorporated or omitted, and to justify their choices. The final draft could be entirely different from the base case and, if approved by the Cabinet, SA would be stuck with it. This is not good governance.
Citizens therefore urgently need to know what happened to the updated IRP in the Cabinet on December 6 and what its status is now. The department must provide evidence on how public concerns to date have been taken into account and what opportunity there will be to have input on the final draft.
The IRP is a plan for the people. It should be rational and it should be developed in a truly participatory manner.
It must benefit the majority of South Africans, not just a few individuals or industries.
• Halsey is a member of the policy team at environmental group Project 90 by 2030.