Mahlobo instructs officials to fast-track SA’s energy plan

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Cape Town – New Energy Minister David Mahlobo has told his department to conclude the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) – which will serve as South Africa’s blueprint for future energy needs – with “immediate effect”.

Mahlobo faced a grilling from members in the National Council of Provinces in Parliament on Tuesday, answering questions about the sale of South Africa’s strategic fuel stocks late 2015, and how government intended to proceed with its nuclear build programme. 

“I directed my team (at the Energy Department) to conclude the IRP with Cabinet with immediate effect so that we have policy certainty and we can boost investor confidence,” Mahlobo said in one of his responses. 

Mahlobo, who was appointed energy minister earlier this month, said SA’s security of energy supply was paramount and that the IRP should continue to inform these security requirements.

“Because of the development of our economy adjustments needed to be made (to the IRP). We need to be clear about our supply of energy,” he said.

He also asked members not to “politicise” the nuclear issue.

READ: David Mahlobo: The nuclear deal’s new best friend? 

Mahlobo indicated earlier on Tuesday during a briefing of Parliament’s oversight committee on energy, that he wanted the IRP to be concluded by November this year.

His predecessor Mmamoloko Kubayi had undertaken to present a finalised version of plan ahead the main budget in February 2018.

Suspicious 

DA spokesperson on energy Gordon Mackay however said this haste with the IRP was “suspicious”, especially because it is such an extensive document.

“Indications by the new Energy Minister, David Mahlobo, that the Integrated Resource Plan will be moved forward and ready by the end of November are alarming and are yet another instance of government sending mixed signals on nuclear energy,” he said in a statement.

Mahlobo said in the NCOP that government has never said it would prioritise one energy option over another.

“Our energy policy remains the same. There is space for renewables and we’re investing in base load (such as coal-fired power stations and nuclear.) Price is a determinant, plus uptake (demand).”

READ: Nuclear: Mahlobo may be the bulldozer Zuma needs 

The Minister added that energy was a “weighty issue”.

“This preoccupation with nuclear has nothing to do with our policy positions. I’m not in the business of tenders, but to ensure we have energy security and I won’t be deterred,” he said, adding that nuclear energy would be pursued at a “scale and pace” the country could afford. 

President Jacob Zuma and Finance Minister have also repeated this stance on numerous occasions. 

Mahlobo was appointed Energy Minister early in October during a surprise Cabinet reshuffle, which some commentators took as a sign that SA wanted to fast-track its nuclear ambitions. 

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