Ramaphosa announces a key energy plan will begin development next year

President Ramaphosa has said he will bring into operation a key section of the law next year to allow for the country’s Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) to be developed.

The decision comes after environmental justice group The Green Connection and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) initiated a legal challenge against the President in January to bring Section 6 of the National Energy Act into operation. This requires the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) to develop an IEP, which will serve as a guide for South Africa’s energy projects.

In a joint statement, the organisations confirmed that the State Attorney notified them that the President would bring the section into operation from 1 April 2024. However, the decision to delay developing the plan by another full year raises concern. 

“While we have achieved, to some degree, what we had set out to do – that is, for the President to agree to bring into operation the relevant Section of the NEA that drives energy planning – the fact that it will only be effective from 1 April 2024, means that only half the battle is won”, said the groups in their statement. “In the midst of a crippling energy crisis, the President’s decision to wait a year, leaves us with many questions and reservations, because it means that only then will the Minister of the DMRE be legally required to get the ball rolling to start developing an IEP.”

Slow-walking solutions to the urgent energy crisis

According to the organisations, a host of energy projects – from oil and gas to nuclear – are being considered and undertaken without a comprehensive and long-term plan. The IEP would balance competing economic, environmental, political and social interests to set the framework for energy-related decisions to be made. Considerations would include climate change and South Africa’s development plans. Importantly, Section 6 guarantees an energy plan that is developed in consultation with the people.

While the NEA was first agreed to in 2008, the delay in bringing Section 6 into operation is one of the factors driving the country’s current crisis, say the groups. Therefore, delaying another full year is unacceptable when the issue should be the government’s top priority.

“As South Africa limps through the energy crisis, it is very confusing why the President would delay the process to start proper energy planning – and in essence, extend the people’s suffering – by another year”, said The Green Connection’s Advocacy Officer Kholwani Simelane.

The groups, therefore, query the government’s motive for continuing to slow-walk the development of a plan that is gravely needed. “South Africans should question whether these decisions are being driven by the needs of the people or whether they are politically motivated”, Simelane added.

SAFCEI’s Executive Director, Francesca de Gasparis said: “The situation is incredibly urgent. South Africa is facing a long cold winter with power cuts over 6 hours per day at present.”

“South Africa needs an urgent resolution to the energy crises now (not next year) with all the mess that has been created as the result of doing energy projects without an energy plan”, she said. “This is not even the bare minimum of what is needed. Government must act faster!”