South Africa’s big new plan to end load shedding for good

 ·5 Jan 2024

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy has published the draft Integrated Resource Plan for 2023, outlining its plans to resolve South Africa’s energy crisis and bring an end to load shedding.

The updated energy blueprint envisions more than 100 gigawatts of new generation capacity being built by 2050, and proposes that a variety of technologies and fuels be considered to produce it, including solar, wind, nuclear and coal.

South Africa lacks a reliable electricity supply, resulting in frequent blackouts that have crippled the economy.

The IRP 2023 maps out multiple scenarios, such as a “least cost” plan to produce 105 gigawatts of power, and another that sees 166 gigawatts being generated from wind, solar, gas and battery storage.

“Energy pathways based on renewable and clean energy technologies only deliver the desired outcome in so far as decarbonizing the power system,” the energy department said in the plan.

“These pathways do not provide security of supply, while carrying the highest cost to implement.”

Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe, a former mine worker and labour union leader who has previously said he doesn’t have a problem with being identified as a “coal fundamentalist,” has overseen a stop-start government program to boost renewable power generation.

The blueprint envisions these additional megawatts being added to the grid by 2030:

  • 4,468 megawatts of power being added to the grid from wind projects,
  • 3,715 megawatts from solar plants,
  • 7,220 megawatts from gas plants

Another 4,103 megawatts should be available from battery storage, while companies are expect to produce about 6,000 megawatts for their own use, it said.

The ensuing period that runs until to 2050 “will require a massive new build program with significant capacity required in just over a decade from now,” including the associated transmission network, according to the plan.

The energy path that is adopted will “ensure security of supply, reduce carbon emissions, and ensure least cost to the economy,” it said.

Other highlights from the plan:

  • Coal continues to play a significant role in electricity generation in South Africa. Given the abundance of coal resources in the country, a consideration for investments in more efficient and clear coal technologies is necessary.

  • Nuclear power is an important form of clean energy, and the government has made a decision to expand its atomic program. Small modular reactors could be deployed incrementally to match increasing energy demand.

  • Gas to power technologies will provide the flexibility to complement renewable energy. In the short term, gas import options should be pursued while local exploration is undertaken.

  • Solar and wind technologies provide an opportunity to diversify the energy mix, and production is set to increase rapidly.

The plan also leans heavily into delaying the shutting down of coal power stations in South Africa, with he department arguing that, by delaying the process, energy can be secured for much longer.

The department said that by delaying the shutdown of five key stations – whose end of life is post 2035 – would result in more than 8,000MW being saved by 2050 compared to the previous plan in the IRP 2019.

More imminently, by delaying the planned shutdown of Tutuka power station by 2030, over 3,500MW could be saved.

This would have the impact of keeping South Africa’s installed capacity higher for longer while new energy sources are tapped.

The full draft IRP can be found below:

With Bloomberg

Read: The big solar problem emerging in South Africa

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