In 2008, an attempt to tackle some of the problems facing the country’s energy supply led the Fossil Fuel Foundation, coal producers, national utility Eskom and the Department of Minerals and Energy to launch the South African Coal Roadmap project.
It aimed “to explore the short, medium and long-term activities and interventions needed to support the coal industry in South Africa to maximize its contribution to South Africa in the face of an uncertain future”
Almost five years after its inception, the long-awaited 52-page document was released on Tuesday, adopting a scenario-based approach to determine the implications of following one of four specific coal use situations.
The thorough analysis aims to provide lawmakers and the industry with numerous options and considerations when making decisions about the future of the industry.
The roadmap has identified actions it considers to be overdue and needing to be addressed urgently to ensure energy security in the face of what has recently been referred to as the 2015 Eskom coal “cliff”.
A 60 million ton coal deficit for the country’s developing power stations is predicted if production does not increase to match demand.
The roadmap said new contracts needed to be signed and new mines developed to ensure that existing coal-fired power stations remained operational.
“Whilst modeling and best available data suggest that sufficient coal resources are available to supply all required grades of coal to power stations in the Central Basin until the mid-2020s, there is significant uncertainty associated with the timing, capacity and projected qualities of new mines, as well as the probability of some of these resources going to export,” it said.
“Failure to resolve this will lead to potential coal supply shortfalls and impact electricity supply as early as 2018.”
The roadmap added that the development of new mines was redundant without the support of associated transport infrastructure adequately and on time.
“Critical to opening up new coalfields, including the Waterberg, is the development of infrastructure, including water pipelines, rail lines, the transmission grid and urban development,” the SACR said.
Further, the roadmap said infrastructure and new mine development would need to be accompanied by a legislative and policy environment conducive to investment.
“In addition, the current lack of security of tenure on prospecting rights introduces uncertainty, while also enabling the ‘hoarding’ of prospecting rights,” the roadmap advised.
It also put an emphasis on the importance of exports to the country’s economy and said despite predicted domestic shortages, exports should be maximized.