IRP energy plan calls for less capacity

IRP plan now out and public comment called for…..

The Department of Energy (DoE) has called for public comment on the much talked about Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) clarified as being for the period 2010-2030

Commentators have noted, that the final IRP plan anticipates that 6 600 MW less capacity will be required by 2030 than originally thought. This has led many into thinking that DoE may delay, once again, impending decisions regarding the proposed nuclear build programme but ,in the State of Nation Address (SONA), President Zuma,was clear that provision was to be made for a nuclear development  but gave no dates.

The comment period on the final IRP closes in early February and DoE, in their statement and notice, says “the responses will be used to inform a final draft to be submitted to Cabinet by March 2014.”

The report finally updates the original IRP of 2011 and takes into account SA economic growth patterns; renewable energy contributions; possible changes to the electricity market and sourcing of energy.

Peak demand expectations less

A demand projection for 2030 is made which is considerably lower the 2011 peak demand but the new document notes that “from a peak demand perspective, this means a reduction from 67 800 MW to 61 200 MW (on the upper end of the range), with the consequence that at least 6 600 MW less capacity is required.”

In addition, the update still uses the National Development Plan’s economic growth target of 5.4%, meaning that as things stand at the moment, demand projections could be reduced even further amounts unless there is a considerable change in South Africa’s economic fortunes.

This has led to many projecting that any nuclear decision will possibly be delayed, further supported by the fact that the new IRP  suggests that no new nuclear baseload capacity is required until after 2025 in any case.

Nuclear development in conflict with SONA

The 1,100 page report suggests that the country should not “prematurely” commit to a technology that may become “redundant” if electricity demand expectations do not materialise. Under such low demand growth conditions, the update does not foresee a need for nuclear baseload until after 2035.

The document also favours a procurement programme launched for between 1 000 MW and 1 500 MW of “fluidised bed combustion coal plants, based on discard coal” which is completely unlike the current coal inputs from Medupi or Kusile. It supports “stepping up” exploration for shale gas in South Africa.

The possibility of enlarging the current Eskom power station configuration with the building of new, more efficient coal-fired plants are debated and the new IRP plan calls for “flexible decision-making in favour of decisions of least regret” which means, according to the DoE IRP compilers, of avoiding “commitments to long range, large-scale investment decisions”.

Play it as you go along, seems to be the theme of the new IRP. Maybe the plan is to sell energy to the North.

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