The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) will continue to pursue an energy mix that will ensure security of supply, while remaining cognisant of the country’s international commitments to respond to climate change, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said during a keynote address at the inaugural Energy South African Youth Economic Council Summit, on January 13.
The theme for the summit was: “How will the COP26 Green Deal affect South Africa’s ‘Just Energy Transition’ plan and its developmental economic objectives?”.
The summit was aimed at providing a platform for South African youth to interface, share ideas and make proposals on the transition from high- to low-carbon emissions.
“We will continue to invest in clean energy technologies toward net-zero emissions. We will do this through our ambitious energy procurement programmes facilitated by the Independent Power Producer Office (IPPO), which is recognised globally for its pioneering excellence,” Mantashe said.
He highlighted that the country had aging coal-fired power stations, and the Koeberg nuclear power station was nearing the end of their lifespan.
He noted that the country relies on coal for about 75% of its electricity generation. The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2019 targets a reduction in coal reliance to below 60% by 2030. However, Mantashe emphasised that the country could not shut down coal generation overnight, as this would be “rash and economically unviable”.
“Notably, some among us – motivated by agendas not of our own, and kowtowing to external lobbies, have sought to project us beholden to the coal sector and, particularly, its emergent black capital.
“Let us be unequivocal, the emergence of black capital in the mineral-energy complex that, for eons, was exclusively white, is a positive development in deracialising our economy. A nonracial government, committed to transformation, should not be cowered into submission by misguided and racial ridicule.
“There are also those who wish to proclaim our so-called coal fundamentalism. Yet our largest allocation, in the IRP 2019, for new generation capacity to be developed between now and 2030, is on renewable energy. This includes 14 400 MW of wind power, 6 000 MW of solar power, 2 088 MW battery storage, and 2 500 MW for hydro,” Mantashe highlighted.
He said that, to date, the DMRE had completed procurement of 6 422 MW of renewable energy through four bid windows (BWs).
By the end of June 2021, at least 5 422 MW from these BWs were already connected to the grid, he added.
Mantashe indicated that the DMRE was in the process of procuring at least a further 6 800 MW of renewable energy. About 2 600 MW of this would be procured under BW 5, whose preferred bidders were announced at the end of 2021. The remaining capacity will be procured soon, Mantashe said.
Moreover, he noted that the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme for 2 000 MW was expected to close by the end of this month.
“Plans are under way to extend the lifespan of Koeberg by 20 years. Nuclear is critical to net-zero carbon emissions as the international energy associations attest. In this regard, as approved by our Cabinet too, we will proceed to implement the 2 500 MW of nuclear, at a scale and pace affordable to South Africa,” Mantashe said.
He posited that the DMRE’s choices derive from national interest to secure energy supply, grow the country’s economy and compete internationally.
Moreover, he said the approach was consistent with COP26 on the phase-down of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
Mantashe also touched on the insufficient just transition funding from developed countries, as well as the uncertainties surrounding these packages.
“We must insist that industrialised countries, as big polluters, take greater responsibility. This includes meeting the commitments they repeatedly make to the poor who bear the brunt of their, often irresponsible, actions. Technology transfer and genuine finance cannot be postponed further if we are to meet the net-zero targets.
“We must collaborate with global partners in the exploitation and development of our mineral resource capacity, both coal and platinum metals group. This involves carbon capture utilisation and storage, hydrogen energy, fuel cell batteries and many others,” he emphasised.
Mantashe also highlighted the importance of youth involvement in the energy sector and in the industrialisation of the country, noting that this would also require investment in education and skills for a productive and competitive energy sector.
“The South African Youth Economic Council Summit must locate itself in this environment and its debates. It must be committed to a development path intent on lifting our nation out of its unemployment and poverty traps.
“This requires knowing your situation, finding the appropriate solutions and being aware of what is happening in an ever-changing and dynamic world in which solidarity must be developed and alliances built with others.
“I encourage you, as young people, to seriously take up careers in the energy sector,” Mantashe said.