Mantashe crowns himself most productive energy minister, hints at post-poll return

05 March 2024 - 11:42
By Khulekani Magubane
Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe speaks at the Africa Energy Indaba conference in Cape Town, March 5, 2024.
Image: Esa Alexander/Reuters Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe speaks at the Africa Energy Indaba conference in Cape Town, March 5, 2024.

Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe has made no bones about naming himself the most productive energy minister in recent years, saying under his leadership the department brought on the highest volume of renewable energy projects on record.

“All those will be issued before the end of the financial year. This will add up to 7,370MW procured by the administration since the launch of the IRP (Integrated Resource Plan). This project was launched in 2011, but we know by many people who lobby for renewables, we are criticised.

“But this term has issued more renewables than any other ministry before me. We have issued bid windows more than any other ministry. In fact we have issued more bid windows than any ministry from 2011 to 2018,” he said.

The minister was addressing the Africa Energy Indaba in Cape Town on Tuesday. The event comes ahead of a landmark election in South Africa’s 30th year as a democracy, in which the ANC is expected to lose a huge chunk of electoral support, meaning fewer of the party's MPs will return to parliament.

The ANC will hold its list conference for candidates to represent the party in national and provincial legislatures ahead of the election, which will guide which members are expected to return as MPs, MPLs and ministers.

Mantashe has drawn sharp criticism from renewable energy lobbyists and non-governmental organisations, who accuse him of being a fundamental supporter of coal and fossil fuel energy technologies. 

In an attempt to counter this charge, Mantashe cited the requests for proposal (RFPs) for independent power producers (IPPs) to develop 5,000MW in new generation capacity under bid window 7 of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme, including 1,800MW of solar PV and 3,200MW of wind power.

He said various companies are bidding for projects under bid window 7, noting 656MW of energy under bid window 2. He said more than 5,000MW would be open for proposals in bid window 8 which is the last bid window for the IRP of 2019 that the department was working on.

The vast majority of the projects the minister was referring to are merely approved and not yet online. Mantashe has been seen as a major obstacle to the IPP office's ability to clear the path for the completion of projects that have clinched proposals and bids.

“We support all energy technologies that will give us energy and help us fight energy supply challenges,” the minister said, noting that grid capacity challenges and renewable energy went hand in hand, but needed to be understood in the country’s context.

Mantashe said while the country was frustrated with load-shedding, the debate on the power cuts aimed at protecting the grid often overlooked “energy poverty” and the work done by the government over the past three decades to bolster access to electricity.

He said the energy availability factor for Eskom’s current coal power fleet showed the power utility’s existing plants were not operating optimally. Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s work has been to improve the performance of the fleet.

The minister said South Africa was unapologetic about drawing investment in a range of energy technologies from the private sector including renewables, coal, nuclear and gas, which he said was a critical part of South Africa’s energy transition.

In a veiled reference to potential shake-ups as a result of the upcoming polls, Mantashe said the government’s National Petroleum Company was gaining traction. “Next year, when we come back for Africa Energy Week, it will be in action.”