The Life After Coal Campaign (LAC) and Greenpeace Africa (GP) have slammed the focus on coal in the IRP2019. Writing in a report published on the CER site, they said they were ‘appalled to note that the new IRP forces in 1 500 MW of dangerous, expensive, and unnecessary new coal-based electricity: 750 MW in 2023 and another 750 MW in 2027. This is an addition of 500 MW since the last draft made available to the public in August 2018’. ‘The intensifying climate strikes and the UN Secretary General’s repeated appeal for “no new coal power plants after 2020” serve as a stark warning to SA – the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be prioritised if we are to have any hope of addressing the existential threat of climate change. The President promised action to address the climate crisis, but this final IRP suggests that this promise was empty,’ they argue. ‘Moreover, the new IRP wilfully ignores all evidence that there is absolutely no need for new coal in the future electricity mix – it does not form part of a least-cost electricity plan for SA. Any new coal capacity will simply add to rising electricity costs and further exacerbate inequality and the economic downturn in SA. Coal plants built in the 2020s will be scheduled to run well past any reasonable deadline for zero carbon emissions, and are likely to be abandoned as stranded assets long before they are paid off,’ they warn. ‘There is no reasonable basis for building new coal plants when the technology and costs are clearly in favour of renewables and flexible generation,’ the report quotes Makoma Lekalakala of EarthLife Africa as saying. ‘We no longer need to choose between clean and cheap electricity – clean energy is an affordable, healthy and feasible alternative,’ said Lekalakala.
‘The new IRP is an obvious attempt to serve the few vested interests in the fossil fuel sector, at the expense of many,’ said Bobby Peek of groundWork. ‘This IRP contradicts the urgent need for a Just Transition and is completely out of touch with reality. SA is already a global air pollution hotspot because of the country’s almost complete reliance on coal. The IRP’s irrational increase in the use of coal will only result in yet more deadly toxic air, while wasting precious water resources and pushing us closer to the brink of complete climate chaos,’ said Happy Khambule, senior political adviser for Greenpeace Africa. ‘LAC and GP maintain that the inclusion of new coal in SA’s future electricity plans, is a clear violation of the Constitution. The organisations also argue that a fair process of determining a new IRP demands that communities affected by the harmful impacts of coal-fired power generation must be adequately consulted, and their voices heard. This has not been done, which makes this IRP fatally flawed,’ the organisations warn. ‘Reasons for the decision to include new coal capacity in the IRP will be requested from Minister Gwede Mantashe in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, and the response will inform further legal action,’ they state.
Criticising the IRP2019 from another angle, Peter Attard Montalto, head of capital investments at Intellidex, argues that the plan repeats the past mistake of assuming a demand for electricity that is far too high. A Moneyweb report quotes him as saying that in the document that was approved by Cabinet last week, government admits that the growth in demand for electricity anticipated in the earlier IRP 2010-2030, which was promulgated in 2011, did not materialise. ‘In the risk analysis that forms part of IRP2019 the authors acknowledge that actual demand “is more likely to be lower than forecast, because of grid defections for various reasons”,’ said Montalto. ‘It has to be noted that Eskom in the past has based the demand forecast in its tariff applications on the IRP assumptions. The fact that actual demand turned out to be much lower left it with a revenue deficit that it is still fighting to recover by challenging the decisions made by energy regulator Nersa in court,’ he warns.
Another attack of the IRP2019’s pro-coal weighting comes from Busi Mavuso, CEO of Business Leadership SA (BLSA) and an Eskom board member, in a TimesLIVE analysis. ‘We are hopeful that the release and gazetting of the long-awaited Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) by the Ministry of Mineral Resources & Energy is, at the very least, a break with the past era of uncertainty,’ she states. ‘However, what stands out in the IRP, at admittedly first glance, is that the commitment to least-cost energy policy that was made in the ANC's national executive committee statement just a few weeks ago has been broken,’ Mavuso goes on to say. ‘By including plans for clean coal technology, the government is trying to appease political factions within the ANC rather than present the best plan for meeting our energy needs in years to come,’ she argues. ‘While there aren't outlandish and wildly ambitious plans for a R1trn nuclear build such as that championed by the former President, the IRP fails to deliver proven least-cost technology, choosing to rely on both coal and nuclear,’ she states. ‘Mantashe speaks of relying on unproven nuclear and clean coal technologies that could at a future date be proved feasible but certainly aren't at this juncture. To make plans for them in the immediate to short term is something that we would advise against,’ she notes. ‘Nevertheless, the allocation for renewable energy is welcome and opens the way for the next round of the renewable independent power producer procurement programme. This could immediately mobilise some R150bn of much-needed investment,’ she states.