There is no energy crisis – minister of Energy, Gwede Mantashe

After publishing the wrong version of the Integrated Resource Plan, Eskom was forced to admit that more than a third of its infrastructure is broken and cannot be relied on to generate electricity on demand. Still, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe, denied South Africa (SA) had an energy crisis.

‘We have no energy crisis, SA has an energy problem that will turn into a disaster if not attended,’ said the minister on the sidelines of the media briefing to announce the IRP.

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) of the government relied on simplicity, cost-effectiveness and speed of the private sector to fill the gap.  According to Daily Maverick (DM), these seem to be the driving priorities for South Africa’s energy investment plan for the next 20 years.

The integrated resource plan of 2019, unveiled by Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, shifted the focus away from the heavy, complex and expensive base load infrastructure projects of the  past 15 years. There would be no new coal or nuclear infrastructure investments beyond the current Eskom build.

In favour are renewable energy sources which could be developed by an array of investors. (Not government or Eskom). These would be brought aboard for smaller projects to lessen coal dominance. The IRP 2019 envisaged the introduction of a maximum 8,100Mw of installed infrastructure from gas and diesel sources. This would be just less than the combined capacity of both Medupi and Kusile power stations. These were meant to be completed five years ago.

Presently, South Africa has only 3,890Mw capacity from these billion rand sources. The bulk of these are the emergency open cycle gas turbines that burn diesel to produce a combined 2,100MW of electricity. At a very costly burn rate of 12 litres of diesel a second, these power stations were designed to generate power, only in emergencies.

However, as Eskom’s infrastructure had deteriorated, the emergency capacity had been used. This at a cost of R192 a second to produce electricity. It was then sold at 90c per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

Enter the Brulpadda project

DM pointed out in its article that, under the IRP 2019, these emergency power stations would be converted to burn natural gas. the country would import the gas mainly from Mozambique’s Rovuma Basin. SA’s recently discovered Brulpadda project in the Indian ocean, would provide the rest. The future would be local recoverable shale and coastal gas reserves according to the IRP 2019.

Eelectricity generation would become the burden of the private sector. Only the private sector has the capacity and money to pursue the exploration projects such as Total’s Brulpadda gas find. It is the largest gas find in South African history. But, to be economically sustainable in the absence of any serious demand in SA, Total’s gas from Brulpadda would have to be shipped overseas. Should the government convert the Gourikwa open cycle gas turbine into a closed cycle gas turbine, the country would have an immediate supply of natural gas from Brulpadda, off the coast of Mossel Bay.

The natural gas from Mozambique,  is already being imported by pipeline into the eastern parts of the country by Sasol. An import platform built at Mossel Bay, ( planned by the now-bankrupt PetroSA), would make good financial sense.

With wind and photovoltaic (PV) solar systems, natural gas would reduce coal’s dominance to about 60% of installed infrastructure. It is about  90% at present. In six years, 670MW of PV energy infrastructure would be installed. This would increase by 1,000Mw annually until 2030. Wind sources will add another almost 9000Mw. The bulk of the new infrastructure would come from independent power producers (IPP).

Mantashe confirmed the urgency of new infrastructure when he told the media the government urgently needed another 4,000MW installed as quickly as possible. For that, it would be looking at the private sector.

All information from Daily Maverick, rewritten for length and style.

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