MATHS AND POL­I­TICS

CityPress - - Business - DEWALD VAN RENS­BURG dewald.vrens­burg@city­press.co.za

Scathing crit­i­cisms were lev­elled at the depart­ment of en­ergy’s new draft In­te­grated Re­source Plan (IRP) this week in Boks­burg, es­pe­cially the “il­log­i­cal” bias against re­new­able en­ergy.

In­dus­try groups and the min­is­ter of en­ergy’s own jilted ad­vis­ers echoed ma­jor complaints, in­clud­ing that gov­ern­ment has set aside far too lit­tle time for con­sul­ta­tions, while with­hold­ing cru­cial in­for­ma­tion that makes it hard to con­sult in the first place.

The IRP is ar­guably the most im­por­tant piece of state plan­ning South Africa has as it de­ter­mines bil­lions in rands of power in­vest­ments.

The En­ergy In­ten­sive User Group of South­ern Africa (EIUG), a lobby of Eskom’s big­gest in­dus­trial cus­tomers com­plained that the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod, which ends on Fe­bru­ary 15, is too short. It has writ­ten to the depart­ment ask­ing for con­sul­ta­tions to be ex­tended.

Cru­cially, the IRP’s con­tentious as­sump­tions around the costs of var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies are also still un­known.

The EIUG’s main crit­i­cism of the IRP is that it makes “overly op­ti­mistic” as­sump­tions about how much power South Africa will need. This means any de­ci­sion about nu­clear or other base load sta­tions can safely be post­poned, said the EIUG’s Jay Mor­ris.

“Of all the tech­nol­ogy op­tions, nu­clear has the big­gest risk of time and cost over­runs,” he said.

Ad­vis­ers to En­ergy Min­is­ter Tina Joe­mat-Pet­ters­son used the event to pub­li­cally re­lease the se­ri­ous crit­i­cisms they had made be­fore the plan was un­veiled.

Rec­om­men­da­tions made by the Min­is­te­rial Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil on En­ergy (Mace) were, how­ever, sum­mar­ily ig­nored. In a note it sent to Joe­mat-Pet­ters­son on Oc­to­ber 31, it crit­i­cised the “il­log­i­cal” de­ci­sion to as­sume higher prices for so­lar power than the older 2013 IRP had done, “while, in re­al­ity, prices have fallen sub­stan­tially”.

When it comes to wind power, the new IRP as­sumes ex­actly the same prices that had been listed in 2013, de­spite the ac­tual price of re­cent projects in South Africa al­ready be­ing far lower.

But even if the un­re­al­is­ti­cally high prices are used, the model would still call for mas­sive re­new­able ex­pan­sion and no nu­clear in the fore­see­able fu­ture.

An ar­bi­trary “build limit” was, how­ever, im­posed on re­new­ables. This is the only rea­son nu­clear fea­tures at all. The IRP “base case” calls for new nu­clear power to be on­line by 2037.

Mace is scathing of this ap­par­ently base­less ger­ry­man­der­ing of the model. There is noth­ing un­re­al­is­tic about build­ing the huge amounts of re­new­ables, aug­mented by gas plants, that an un­con­strained model would ad­vise, it wrote to Joe­mat-Pet­ters­son.

“It is il­log­i­cal to im­pose an­nual build lim­its to so­lar power and wind, and, more so, to only limit th­ese two tech­nolo­gies and none of the oth­ers,” read the note.

Speak­ing to City Press, Mace mem­ber and pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cape Town’s Grad­u­ate School of Busi­ness An­ton Eber­hard said that nu­clear en­ergy “does not ap­pear in the base case, or any other sce­nario, un­less ar­ti­fi­cial con­straints are placed on the amount of wind and so­lar that can be built in any one year”.

“There is no ra­tio­nal ba­sis for re­strict­ing so­lar and wind. Gas pro­vides a back-up, so re­li­a­bil­ity is as­sured and grid con­nec­tions will not be a con­straint.”

Joe­mat-Pet­ters­son has, how­ever, al­ready jumped to the de­fence of the re­new­able en­ergy lim­its. In an opin­ion piece for the Busi­ness Re­port re­cently, she as­serted that “re­new­able en­ergy can­not be un­con­strained”.

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