Recently the Department of Energy (DoE) released draft components of the long awaited Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) and the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). These effectively map out energy plans for South Africa until 2050. They determine when, and what type, of power stations we build. In short, they are very important for the economy and the people of SA.
Looking at the process of public consultation: The media briefing was on the 22nd November and the draft reports were published in the Government gazette on 25th November. By midday on the 28th November, some important annexures that need investigating to understand how the plans were developed, were still not available on the DoE website. The first public consultation workshop is to take place in Gauteng, and is set for the 7th December. If you wish to present at said event, you need to submit your presentation two days before, on Monday 5th December. While this is a very tight schedule in general, some of the information was not even available for scrutiny by the 28th November. Furthermore, what is available amounts to over 700 pages of complex documentation.
It seems the public are expected to read literally hundreds of pages of technical literature, and to produce good presentations, with only five working days lead time. To meaningfully engage with the planning documents, public comment needs to pick up the nuance and the detail, it needs to identify areas of weakness and suggest better alternatives. This takes time, and this is exactly what the consultation workshop schedule does not allow.
Do you think this acceptable?
For a bit of context, the first IRP came out in 2010. While an update was done in 2013, it was never promulgated. For the IRP 2016, the DoE have used the IRP 2010 as a starting point. While the DoE has effectively had six years to work on these plans, the public now get less a week to generate input before the first workshop starts. They are also planned at a time of year when many people are involved with holidays or planning thereof. Government school holidays start the exact day the workshops kick off. It is pretty obvious that this schedule was designed to limit meaningful public engagement at the workshops.
Of special interest is that the Cape Town workshop is set for the 13th December. This is the same date that the DoE is already appearing at the Cape Town High Court because of dubious process regarding the nuclear procurement programme.
As concerned members of civil society we find ourselves in a position where we do not have all the information we need to engage in this process. Equally worrying is that we don’t have enough time to analyze the information we do have properly. The public deserves fair and appropriate timelines for these consultation workshops. If the DoE want to gain any credibility for their planning documents, they must make all the documents available, and revise the consultation workshop schedule to start in February 2017 at the earliest. Only with appropriate preparation time and all the relevant information in hand we can work together to develop the best plan for a sustainable energy future for South Africa.
Richard Halsey is a member of Project 90 by 2030’s Policy and Research team.