Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe has kept his place at the helm of government’s mining portfolio, all while taking on responsibility for South Africa’s energy policy.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday evening at the Union Buildings in Pretoria that Mantashe would serve as minister of a merged department between mineral resources and energy. Mantashe takes on responsibilities which fell on former minister of energy Jeff Radebe in the previous Cabinet.
Radebe’s 25-year career in national government came to an end after Ramaphosa’s assignment. Radebe enjoyed much praise for finally releasing an Integrated Resource Plan draft towards the end of 2018.
One of Radebe’s last acts as energy minister was to write to the National Energy Regulator of SA, granting them permission to consider licensing independent power producers on a small scale. However, there are broader ends at the energy portfolio that have been kept loose.
There are currently five major policy and planning issues that affect the energy portfolio and have done so for years.
Continuity Integrated Resource Plan
The energy portfolio has had at least six ministers in the past decade.
Energy expert Chris Yelland told Fin24 that this has weighed on the department’s ability to ensure policy certainty.
The amalgamation of energy into the mineral resources department rocks the boat even further and remarks Mantashe made in January about the coal industry’s need to protect itself cast doubt on Mantashe’s commitment to advancing renewable energy.
1998 Government White Paper on Energy Policy
The white paper on energy policy has existed for 20 years and much of what it sought to accomplish has not been implemented.
“The White Paper was developed by an active process of consultation, beginning with the publication of the Energy Policy Discussion Document in August 1995. This process was concluded in December 1998 when Cabinet approved this White Paper as Government policy on Energy,” said a memo from the Department of Energy website.
When modernisation and renewable energy solutions are taken into consideration, Yelland said, then the white paper will be in urgent need of implementation as well as updating.
Integrated Energy Plan
Yelland said the minister of energy must publish an Integrated Energy Plan every year, in terms of the National Energy Act. Despite this stipulation, Ben Martins was the last energy minister to publish one back in 2003.
According to the Department of Energy website: “The purpose of the IEP is to provide a roadmap of the future energy landscape for South Africa which guides future energy infrastructure investments and policy development.”
Fuel price cap?
Towards the end of the fifth administration, the Department of Energy was still in the process of researching the feasibility of a hard price ceiling on the price of 93 unleaded fuel.
The measure was a response to the impact of fuel price hikes on motorists, businesses and South African households in general.
Energy spokesperson Johannes Mokobane told Fin24 in April that conversations about the feasibility of the cap within the department were at an advanced stage.
This means that Mantashe is likely to find a report on the matter that makes a conclusion on the idea of a cap, which he would have to either follow through or restart from scratch.
Under the Integrated Resources Plan for electricity exist plans for various energy modes including coal, liquid fuels and other sources of energy.
The longer it takes to promulgate the Integrated Resource Plan, the less clarity exists for policy on the various means of energy.