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Coal hard cash: The stakes are high in SA’s energy future


Coal hard cash: The stakes are high in SA’s energy future

The lobbying behind SA's energy blueprint shows just how much big business is at stake

Lisa Steyn

The window to submit comments on SA’s energy blueprint, the draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), may have closed a month ago but the lobbying for various technologies continues in earnest.
Wind, solar and gas have come up as the clear winners in the plan that is based on a least-cost model. Even so, proponents of renewable power criticise the plan for providing too little of it too slowly.
Not all renewables are equal either and Concentrated Solar Power, given its higher price tag, was left out of the draft plan even though its thermal storage means it can provide power after the sun sets.
For gas, the plan introduces it as a new baseload supply and it has excited the aspirant industry, although there is some general concern about the lack of infrastructure, as well as having to pay a dollar cost for the gas.
The IRP sees coal’s role being significantly reduced in future, but the coal industry says clean coal tech should be considered to reduce emissions while producing reliable baseload power.
Meanwhile, some from the anti-coal lobby want all coal to be scrapped from the plan and argue there is no such thing as clean coal.
Even the nuclear industry continues to pitch for its part in the energy mix, despite it being excluded from the draft IRP in a move that appeared welcome given rampant concerns over hidden agendas behind the push for a nuclear under the tenure of former president Jacob Zuma.
With all the fervent lobbying afoot, one is reminded that, ultimately, there is very big business at stake.

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