IRP to be out of date by time of Cabinet approval as a result of protracted talks
CREAMER MEDIA EDITOR
The protracted nature of the ongoing consultation process for updating the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) will result in the plan being immediately out of date when Cabinet finally approves it later this year.
In fact, South African Independent Power Producer Association general-secretary Dave Long points out that the assumptions used to inform the draft 2018 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) are already nearly two years old and, thus, deviate from the prevailing reality in the electricity sector.
This divergence is as true, he adds, for the draft document published for public consultation in August last year as it is for the version presented to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) constituencies for further consultation in March.
That second document, which has not been widely shared outside of Nedlac, includes modifications flowing from the comments made during the public-participation phase.
While the assumption for the energy availability factor (EAF) for Eskom’s fleet has been lowered, to between 71% and 75%, from the 80% level included in the 2018 draft IRP, it remains well above the current levels. Information compiled by energy analyst Chris Yelland shows that Eskom’s EAF for the year to date is 66.89%, compared with 73.28% for same period in 2018.
In addition, the demand growth assumption in the IRP remains well above the declining levels being achieved currently, as the South African economy struggles to grow at better than 1%.
On the supply-side, meanwhile, the draft IRP assumes that all 12 units at Medupi and Kusile will be in commercial operation by July 2022 and operating at capacity. While Eskom remains committed to completing the build programme by that date, the units introduced thus far have been operating well below nameplate levels.
Long, who is a participating in the Nedlac process at part of the Business Unity South Africa delegation, reports that the social partners have been given until September to finalise their consultations on the plan.
Consensus is not required, but the document does need to be signed off by the Nedlac management committee and the executive council before Cabinet, which is entitled to make further policy adjustments, can consider it.
In early July, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashereported that the IRP is likely to serve before Cabinet before the end of the year.
Addressing lawmakers on the occasion of the Energy Budget Vote, he said that the draft IRP was still being considered by the social partners, but that he was optimistic that a “final product” would serve before Cabinet in September.
The prevailing IRP, known as IRP 2010, includes demand and technology cost assumptions that are 12 years out of date, as the assumptions included in the document were finalised well ahead of its gazetting in 2011.
Long is concerned that the IRP currently under review at Nedlac does not incorporate a short-term plan, for the period from 2019 to 2022, to address the threat of load-shedding. A total of 769 GWh of power was shed during the first quarter of 2019, including 595 GWh in March, when Eskom resorted to ten consecutive days of load-shedding.
“We still don’t have a national plan to deal with the load-shedding that may resume in the next month or two once Eskom enters its summer maintenance season.”