South Africa – Speaking in a keynote address on the first day of the 19th edition of the African Utility Week conference and exhibition event, South Africa minister of energy Jeff Radebe reiterated that the country remains committed to renewable energy. He, however, was also quick to point out that South Africa is not yet ready to abandon the use of coal to produce electricity.
Radebe told conference delegates that with regard to South Africa’s energy mix, the country cannot ignore its abundant coal reserves, and the fact that the price of local coal remains relatively low.
However he also acknowledged that the high carbon content of coal has its own costs especially to the environment. He also pointed out that in South Africa the energy sector contributes close to 80% towards total emissions of which 50% are from electricity generation and liquid fuel production alone.
“While a paradigm shift is required for these emission reduction targets to be realised, as government we cannot do this in a manner that is unjust relative to those that would be negatively affected by these adjustments. Our vast coal deposits cannot be sterilized simply because we cannot explore technological innovations to exploit the coal. The timing of the transition to a low carbon economy, in line with our accession to the Paris Agreement, must be in a manner that is not insensitive to the potential impacts on jobs and local economies,” the minister said.
Emphasising South Africa’s commitment to renewable energy the minister said, “Through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer (REIPP) programme, the Department of Energy has sent out strong signals with regard to South Africa as an investment destination for energy infrastructure development. We have successfully implemented bidding rounds to which the response has been over R250 billion in investment to date.”
Minister Radebe also revealed that South Africa’s long awaited Integrated Resource Plan which will reflect the country’s policy blueprint for the power sector, and its update will be concluded imminently.
“We are still engaging the social partners at NEDLAC. Cabinet approval of the IRP for South Africa will define a tangible plan for energy security that also enables the participation of Independent Power Producers (IPP) side by side with Eskom and municipalities,” he explained. “I am on record as having indicated that Eskom alone cannot meet our power capacity requirements, because we estimate that the capacity extension under the IRP will cost in excess of R1 trillion in the period up to 2030, including the new power plants plus the requisite transmission and distribution infrastructure.”
The minister concluded his address by commending Africa Utility Week and PowerGEN Africa 2019 as an appropriate platform for all role-players to deliberate on the best modalities for providing reliable, efficient and continuous supply of electricity to Africa’s economies.