“During the past six years there have been rapid and significant changes in the energy landscape with new technologies emerging and varying (falling) prices. Therefore‚ it is essential that the IRP should be regularly updated to ensure that South Africa’s power plan remains aligned with the most recent technological and pricing trends‚ while also taking account of the medium-term need to supply sufficient electricity and to replace the aging fleet of thermal power stations‚” the SAAE said.
The academy noted that earlier this year‚ a number of organisations - including SAAE and the government’s own scientific council‚ the CSIR - raised concerns about a number of aspects of the draft IRP document.
President Jacob Zuma had also appointed three different ministers of energy in a span of two years to head one of the most important ministries of government‚ while the minister of public enterprises had appointed four new chief executives at Eskom in one year.
The academy said a number of factors did not appear to have been considered‚ including the fact that there would be an oversupply of electricity until at least 2022.
This meant that any additional capacity installed during the next five years would “essentially be redundant”‚ with inevitable adverse economic impacts.
Eskom’s policy of purchasing low-quality coal from small miners at high prices and medium-quality coal from large‚ efficient miners at low prices was likely to have a major knock-on effect through under-investment in large mines‚ leading to a high risk of coal shortages by 2020.
The academy also noted that current prices of electricity from nuclear power stations were known to be higher than from many other sources.
“Therefore‚ the Executive Committee of the SAAE requests that‚ in the interest of South Africa‚ the Department of Energy should cease to run the current ad hoc processes but rather engage with relevant research groups and industry associations in a well-planned‚ facilitated and documented process to discuss and agree on the best available input parameters for the modelling of alternative scenarios for the IRP so as to ensure that there is consensus on the assumptions.