Written by Nichelle Lemmer
It seems that the long wait for a national Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) will soon be over. A panel of experts discussed the role a new IEP will play in the energy sector at the Critical Thinking Forum, an event hosted by the WWF South Africa in March.
During the event, it was suggested that government officials have set a deadline for the completion of a draft IEP document in June. “It seems that the new IEP may be hatched behind closed doors,” says Richard Worthington, manager of the Climate Change Programme, at WWF South Africa. According to the panel of experts, consisting of Worthington, Ronald Chauke from the National Energy Regular of South Africa (NERSA) and Professor Mohan Munasinghe, who is an academic and economist, the IEP should serve as an energy framework for all industries to base their development decisions on.
Prof Munasinghe stressed the importance of integration that link energy supply and demand, the various energy using sectors within the economy, and global markets. He said that it is essential to take a holistic approach to the IEP, developing it on sound research and data that would set realistic goals to develop and meet the energy needs of the country. During the past 20 years, Prof Munasinghe has developed and applied a methodology for sustainable energy development, including the Action Impact Matrix that integrates the economic, social and environmental concerns with the policy goals of the country. This process creates a practical framework through which a successful IEP can be developed. “We hope that the experts working on it will include all the important aspects like air, land and water usage, and key social issues like poverty and equity in the draft.”
He said that if the technical aspects of the IEP were incorrect, it would cost the government money and time to fix their mistake, and it could lead to severe criticism of the IEP when it is open for discussion to the public sector. “It is of the essence to get it technically correct the first time, because we have all the models and processes to do so.” According to him, transparency during the development phase of the plan can be cumbersome and time-consuming, but it must be part of the process and ensure that the IEP addresses key issues and constraints in the public domain. Worthington said that if the Department of Energy already decided on the key elements of the plan without consulting the public, the IEP may be fundamentally flawed.
Chauke said one of the main challenges of drafting a successful IEP will be to unite various stakeholders, industries and the government on certain energy issues. “The IEP has to set the scene for all the sectors as energy supply and demand has an impact on industries across the board,” he said.
Prof Munasinghe said the government should acknowledge the responsibility that comes with developing an IEP as the decisions and policies made in the document could lock South Africa into a path way of energy development and infrastructure. “If the government decides on a major investment in a specific technology, it should be made on sound data and research. A poor decision could cost the country billions of rands if investments are based on an sub-optimal IEP.”
South Africa needs a detailed and coherent IEP to set the scene for sustainable development and growth for the future. The completion of the national IEP is long overdue and will map out the road South Africa will follow in securing enough energy for the future.
WWF South Africa
Tel: +27 11 447 1213
Fax: +27 11 447 0365