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South Africa’s energy policy has not and will not change, Energy Minister David Mahlobo told the country’s Portfolio Committee on Energy earlier this week. He said energy was an important catalyst and enabler for economic development, and the country must ensure it used a diversity of energy resources.
“We are blessed with uranium that could be extracted and be put into use to produce nuclear power. We have gas, but not in abundance. Nuclear energy [has] got to be at a cost that we could afford. If energy is expensive it will be an impediment to growth and stability,” he said.
South Africa‘s current Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), drawn up in 2010, called for construction of 9600 MWe of new nuclearcapacity over the period to 2030. The country’s Department of Energy is in the process of updating the IRP, and in November 2016 issued a draft IRP and Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) for public consultation. The 2016 draft IRP, under its base case, calls for 1359 MWe of new nuclear capacity to be built by 2037 and a total of 20,385 MWe by 2050.
The IRP guides the government’s plan for electricity provision within the energy mix, while the IEP aims to guide future energy infrastructure investments over the period up to 2050, and identify and recommend policy options to shape the future energy landscape of the country.
Portfolio committees are appointed from members of South Africa‘s National Assembly to provide parliamentary oversight for the work of government departments.
Chairman Fikile Majola said the Portfolio Committee wanted to deal with issues previously identified as important in the energy sector.
“The Committee wants to be sure on processes that are said to be under way so that there is certainty,” Majola said. “There has to be clarity with the general attitude of government with regard to energy policy so that the public is clear [about] the intentions of government. On all the big issues in the sector, we want some level of certainty with regard to where we are,” he said.
Mahlobo, who became energy minister in a cabinet reshuffle last month, said reliability and sustainability of energy supply, as well as social, political and environmental impacts, were important factors. “The implementation of the policy has to give consideration to clean energy sources going into 2025 when it is expected that the country cuts down its gas emissions, in line with the climate change commitments that have been made,” he said.
South African utility Eskom in December 2016 released a request for information to support the future procurement of the new nuclear capacity under the existing IRP. However, The South African High Court earlier this year ruled ministerial determinations underpinning the country’s nuclear procurement plans to be unlawful and unconstitutional. It also declared the same to be the case for intergovernmental nuclear cooperation agreements, including those with Russia, South Korea and the USA, and ruled that they and the request for information must now be set aside.