Energy minister David Mahlobo has announced a major energy indaba for the first week in December to get public participation on contentious issues like the nuclear new build programme.
He plans to release government’s long-awaited integrated resource plan‚ which will determine the country’s future energy mix‚ before the end of the year.
Briefing the parliamentary portfolio committee on energy on Tuesday on his ministerial plans‚ Mahlobo seemed a man in a hurry. “Let’s move‚ we don’t have time‚” he said.
But he did not mention the possibility of a Russian nuclear deal once‚ and did not reveal any government cost estimates for the deal‚ which experts calculate to be around R1-trillion.
The minister faced criticism from within his own party when parliamentary portfolio committee chairman and senior ANC MP Slovo Majola said he had the feeling that the nuclear deal was sometimes on and sometimes off‚ and asked for policy clarity from government.
It took Mahlobo about five minutes into his two-hour-long submission to mention nuclear for the first time‚ when he mentioned it in connection with the abundance of uranium resources South Africa has.
He warned that as most coal-fired power stations will have to be decommissioned by 2025‚ job losses would hit the Mpumalanga highveld.
By 2030‚ South Africa would be using four times more nuclear power than it does currently‚ and about a third less coal power‚ Mahlobo said.
“The nuclear horse has bolted‚” the minister opined.
DA MP Gordon Mackay was not impressed.
“It is clear that government is in contempt of the Western Cape High Court’s order that the nuclear process must start afresh‚ with full public participation. And government must not try to sell the energy indaba as public participation — such a process is prescribed and must be thorough‚” said Mackay.
He also questioned why government refused to put a price tag on the nuclear new build programme.
“We cannot have government stating that it wants nuclear‚ but not stating what the cost is. No-one buys a car without knowing the price‚” Mackay said.