The draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity generation was released for public comment by the South African Department of Energy (DOE) in October 2010. While the document is therefore still in draft form, and will presumably be refined in the final stage of public engagement, it is worthwhile to reflect on the state of this draft IRP, a document that marks a turning point in the energy planning process in South Africa.
The process of supporting transparent and accountable electricity planning in South Africa, open to public debate, and reflected upon and refined based on a process of democratic engagement, has hitherto been absent in contemporary South Africa. Indeed, until very recently, dialogue on the makeup and priorities of electricity planning were restricted to a handful of closely knit institutions and individuals, and outside of the breadth of public examination. The IRP 2010, as the latest IRP document is referred to, represents the first in what will hopefully be a long history of transparent electricity planning efforts in the country.
Equally important, the document constitutes the first tangible attempt to commence the process of integrating and aligning South Africa’s climate change mitigation objectives on the one hand, through a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with electricity usage, and the country’s traditional and critically important energy planning functions and priorities related to universal access, economic development, industrial competitiveness and security of supply.