Based on the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (2014), national emissions within the shaded area above from 2016 are the highest that could credibly be reconciled with keeping global warming below 2 degrees, i.e. cumulative emissions to 2050 of 10 000 Mt (10 Gt); the lower shaded area offers a stronger prospect, and is arguably compatible with efforts to achieve stabilisation at 1.5 degrees (2016-2050 total of 7 800 Mt). This shows how outdated the ‘PPD Range’, derived from analysis initiated in 2005, has become. It also illustrates the need to investigate all possible means to decarbonise our energy system in the medium-term and to set DEROs that can be reconciled with the global goal. In the absence of parameters being set by the Inter-Ministerial Committee, the energy planning processes currently underway should at the very least include some scenarios with emissions that fall within the range illustrated above.
South Africa is already over-invested in fossil fuels, as illustrated by analysis published by Carbon Tracker in 2012, which found that just the coal reserves listed as assets on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange would result in emissions of over 15 Gt CO2, i.e. more than double the amount of coal we can responsibly burn. Thus many among organised business argue that implementing even the short- and medium-term reductions modelled in the MPA is an unrealistic objective, suggesting that 50% of the analysed mitigation (the upper trajectory in the above graph) should be considered sufficient. However, the value of fossil holdings have fluctuated widely while the costs of low-carbon technologies, especially for solar and wind power, have declined so dramatically they now provide electricity at less cost that concentrated energy options (fossil and nuclear fuels), as clearly documented by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Imminent decisions should be informed by medium- and long-term objectives
Energy supply and use accounts for over 80% of South Africa’s GHG emissions and government is conducting public consultations on energy planning into the first quarter of 2017, on the basis of documents released at the end of November. Most stakeholders have requested that the deadline for public comment be extended from mid-February to end March, as well as further public consultation once actual plans have been proposed. The Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) covers the entire energy sector, while the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), for which only a “Base Case” and sets of assumptions have been published, will cover electricity supply. It is treated as a component of IEP, alongside plans for the liquid fuels and gas industries. The Department of Energy (DoE) has presented the IEP as a policy development process, while the IRP will stipulate a new generation capacity build plan.
The big-picture ‘Integrated Energy Plan’ published in the Government Gazette currently consists of four ‘scenarios’ (including the base case) with different demand projections and combinations of supply, as well as 24 pages of conclusions and recommendations that endorse development of all energy supply options, with no over-arching strategy or prioritisation. None of the scenarios can be reconciled with the global goal for limiting global warming, or with the energy vision in the National Development Plan. There is no net decline in coal use for at least 20 years in any scenario and it is not clear from available documentation whether the one scenario with reduced direct end-use of coal – the only scenario that keeps national emissions below the top of the PPD Range – involves substantially less total coal use in 2050 than today, as it includes new coal-to-liquids (CTL) production.
The trajectories of emissions from energy supply and use provided in the IEP only record carbon dioxide emissions (not other GHGs such as fugitive methane from mining and liquid fuel production or nitrous oxide from combustion) and start at different levels at the dates shown (a result of having been projected from a 2006 start date). The Green Shoots scenario with 350 Mt CO2 in 2050, suggests total emissions no lower than the 438 Mt CO2eq set as the top of the 2011 policy range: