The long-awaited Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2023 was published in the Government Gazette for public commentary on Thursday, shedding light on the South African government’s approach to the persistent energy crisis. However, experts caution against expecting groundbreaking changes, as the plan indicates an extended period of load shedding until at least 2030.

The private sector and business organizations had been pressuring Gwede Mantashe, the Minister of Energy, for months to release the updated plan, as all previous planning had been based on the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). The primary objective of the IRP is to ensure a secure electricity supply by balancing demand, considering environmental factors, and assessing the overall cost of supply.

The IRP 2023 cites several key factors necessitating a review, including changes in electricity demand projections, Eskom’s plant performance, and the costs of new technologies. However, energy expert Roger Lilley criticizes the plan, stating that it lacks innovation and fails to provide out-of-the-box solutions, despite acknowledging the detrimental impact of load shedding.

The plan concludes with a stark warning, highlighting a concerning electricity supply and demand deficit until 2030.

One notable deviation from the IRP 2019 is the reversal of decisions regarding the closure of coal-fired power stations. Additionally, the IRP 2023 proposes a further extension for minimum emissions, citing potential immediate and long-term losses of baseload generation capacity if air quality regulations are implemented.

The IRP suggests two scenarios: Horizon One (2023-2030) aims to stabilize electricity supply and end load shedding, while Horizon Two (2031-2050) focuses on ensuring sufficient generating capacity for the future.

Horizon One (2023-2030):

  • The improvement of Eskom fleet’s Energy Availability Factor (EAF)
  • Deployment of dispatchable generation options, such as gas to power
  • Delaying closure of coal-fired power plants where possible
  • Supporting the development of the transmission grid
  • Managing risks associated with extending the design life of Koeberg and compliance with emission standards.

Horizon Two (2031-2050):

  • Pathway One: Reference case based on the cheapest energy mix, costing R5.9 trillion
  • Pathways Two and Three: Transitioning the power system with the most new generation capacity, costing R8.4 trillion
  • Pathway Four: Delayed shutdown of coal-fired power plants by ten years, maintaining security of supply at a cost of R6.5 trillion
  • Pathway Five: Deployment of cleaner coal technologies up to 6,000 MW, costing R6.1 trillion.

The IRP 2023 emphasizes that a combination of technical analysis and policy adjustments will be crucial in achieving security of supply, reducing carbon emissions, and minimizing economic costs in the long term.