SA Govt. applying the same cliff-hanger as the Springboks in the World Cup with their approach to our energy needs

A standout feature of South Africa’s latest World Cup Rugby triumph was how the Springboks won their last three matches by one point.

The South African Government, it seems, is applying the same cliff-hanger approach to our energy needs, although in the case of power supply we hope never to hear the final whistle.

As if 15 years of load shedding wasn’t exciting enough, government now appears eager to keep us guessing on energy policy, with two deeply flawed recent reports prompting another round of anxiety for energy stakeholders. The new Gas Master Plan, gazetted last week for public comment, was supposed to address the impending ‘day zero’ scenario when local gas supply drops below local demand. But instead of detailing how day zero would be avoided, the Master Plan appears to be leaving it up to fate; energy stakeholders say it falls well short of its stated intention of providing a roadmap for security of supply.

The same is true of the government’s most recent iteration of the IRP, the Integrated Resource Plan, that left many stakeholders underwhelmed by its approach to renewable energy. South Africa is well endowed with solar and wind potential, but the IRP has been slammed as ‘slow-footed’ and misaligned, particularly in relation to South Africa’s stated commitment to the Paris Agreement and reducing carbon emissions. In the opinion of most top commentators, the IRP lacks the bold steps needed to move South Africa towards a sustainable energy future.

Finally, with South Africans already jittery with PTED, post-traumatic Eskom disorder, we have the news of petrochemical giant Shell selling its retail (downstream) business, which means shutting down its network of around 600 service stations. Although the precise reasons for the move are still unclear – it reportedly coincides with a commercial dispute with Shell’s BEE partners Thebe Investment – the exit of another major global brand from our shores does little to restore much-needed energy confidence.

Then again, there’s always the chance that all these energy-related hiccups are all part of the game-plan, and, like the victorious Springbok team, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe will secure fuel and energy security with just a few seconds remaining on the clock.

Let us hope so. 

Brinkmanship is all very well in rugby where we can afford to lose a game or two, or finish runner-up. With energy supply the loser goes home to a cold shower. 

John Lawson
CEO of the Cape Chamber of Commerce & Industry