/ 9 January 2024

Revised Integrated Resource Plan needed ‘ASAP’

Some say coal-fired power stations are having to limit output during the day when solar energy is at a peak

If everything goes as anticipated, the final iteration of the new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) — which sets out the path of the country’s energy future — should be finalised by the end of May 2024.

This is according to the director general of the department of mineral resources and energy, Jacob Mbele, who briefed the media on Tuesday about the draft plan — which, following its release for public comment last week, has been the subject of strong criticism.

Written comments on the IRP 2023 are due on 23 February. Thereafter, the draft plan will be scrutinised at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) before it is finalised.

The process of finalising the IRP has taken far longer in the past. According to Mbele, the IRP 2019 was held at Nedlac for a year. 

“We need a revised IRP ASAP … The scary part, by the way, is that every day that goes by without us finalising the IRP, the assumptions get outdated,” Mbele added.

The department has not yet committed to holding public hearings on the crucial document but Mbele said the department is considering this.

Following numerous delays, the plan was widely anticipated. The draft has disappointed some, with a number of commentators pointing to a lack of detail in the document.

Among the contentious elements of the draft IRP is that the plan appears to roll back the amount of wind and solar energy that will be procured compared to the 2019 iteration. The 2023 plan suggests that only 8083 megawatts of new wind and solar capacity will come online from 2024 to 2030, while the IRP 2019 suggested 15 200MW of wind and solar would be installed during this period.

The draft IRP 2023 also sets out the installation of far more gas generation capacity that was envisioned in the 2019 plan.

In addition, the new plan proposes delaying shutting down certain coal-fired power plants to avoid the economic hit of their premature decommissioning. The IRP 2019 sets out the decommissioning of Eskom’s Camden, Hendrina, Grootvlei, Arnot, Kriel and Komati power stations by 2030.

Controversially, the draft IRP 2023 sees load-shedding continuing until 2027, an outcome that would be a bad sign for South Africa’s limping economy. The 2027 deadline also contradicts the ambition of the National Energy Crisis Committee to address load-shedding by the end of 2024.