South Africa’s plan to add 100 gigawatts of new generation capacity

Gwede Mantashe

South Africa’s updated energy blueprint envisions more than 100 gigawatts of new generation capacity being built by 2050.

The draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2023, published by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, outlines plans to resolve South Africa’s energy crisis and end load-shedding.

The IRP 2023 maps out multiple scenarios. It includes a least cost plan to produce 105 gigawatts of power, and one that sees 166 gigawatts being generated from wind, solar, gas, and battery storage.

The plan comes amidst a crisis where South Africa lacks a reliable electricity supply, resulting in frequent blackouts that hurt the economy.

“Energy pathways based on renewable and clean energy technologies only deliver the desired outcome in decarbonising the power system,” the energy department said in the plan.

“These pathways do not provide security of supply while carrying the highest cost to implement.”

Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe, has overseen a stop-start government program to boost renewable power generation.

Mantashe is a former mine worker and labour union leader who has previously said he doesn’t have a problem with being identified as a “coal fundamentalist”.

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2023 envisions a lot of additional capacity added by 2030, including:

  • 4,468 megawatts from wind projects.
  • 3,715 megawatts from solar plants.
  • 7,220 megawatts from gas plants.
  • 1,440 megawatts from coal plants.

Another 4,103 megawatts should be available from battery storage, while companies are expected to produce about 6,000 megawatts for their own use.

The ensuing period until 2050 “will require a massive new build program with significant capacity required in just over a decade from now”.

The energy path that is adopted will “ensure the security of supply, reduce carbon emissions, and ensure the least cost to the economy,” it said.

Other highlights contained in the draft Integrated Resource Plan include:

  • Coal continues to play a significant role in electricity generation in South Africa. Given the abundance of coal resources in the country, a consideration for investments in more efficient and clear coal technologies is necessary.
  • Nuclear power is an important form of clean energy, and the government has made a decision to expand its atomic program. Small modular reactors could be deployed incrementally to match increasing energy demand.
  • Gas-to-power technologies will provide the flexibility to complement renewable energy. In the short term, gas import options should be pursued while local exploration is undertaken.
  • Solar and wind technologies provide an opportunity to diversify the energy mix, and production is set to increase rapidly.

The plan also leans heavily into delaying the shutting down of coal power stations in South Africa, with the department arguing that, by delaying the process, energy can be secured for much longer.

The department said that by delaying the shutdown of five key stations – whose end of life is post 2035 – would result in more than 8,000MW being saved by 2050 compared to the previous plan in the IRP 2019.


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