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CSIR points to 30 000 net jobs gain in electricity to 2030, despite fall in coal jobs

26th October 2018 BY: Terence Creamer
Creamer Media Editor

An analysis of the Department of Energy’s (DoE’s) recommended plan in the draft Integrated Resource Plan 2018 (IRP 2018) shows that there will be a 30 000 net increase in employment in the electricity industry to 2030, despite a 100 000 fall in coal jobs over the period.

In its formal response to the draft document, the comment period for which closes today, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) said the plan would result in reduction in coal jobs even with the contested inclusion of two new coal-fired independent power producer (IPP) projects with a combined capacity of 1 000 MW.

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The fall in coal employment relates primarily to the decommissioning of 9.9 GW of coal capacity from Eskom’s existing fleet between 2020 and 2030.

Using a customised International Jobs and Economic Development Impacts (I-JEDI) model to test the direct, indirect and induced employment potential for the generation technologies included in the recommended plan, the analysis shows that the proposed deployment of new-build wind, solar photovoltaic (PV) and natural gas capacity will result in a net jobs increase. The I-JEDI was adapted by the CSIR for South Africa using freely available JEDI economic tools developed by National Renewable Energy Laboratory, of the US.

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The CSIR analysis of the recommended plan shows that 60 000 new jobs will be created in the gas sector to 2030, while the deployment of solar PV and wind will contribute up to 110 000 jobs by 2030. Overall, employment is expected to rise by 30 000, from around 365 000 jobs in 2020 to 395 000 in 2030, despite the fall in coal jobs.

The CSIR intends to undertake further analysis on other scenarios included in the draft IRP 2018, but recommends that investigations be made into ways of addressing the socioeconomic impacts of the electricity transition, with a particular focus on the coal sector and workers within that sector.

The draft includes six scenarios, including the recommended plan, also referred to as the policy-adjusted plan. The DoE’s recommended plan deviates from the least-cost scenario in that it caters for the two coal IPPs, the import of hydropower from the Democratic Republic of Congo and places limits on the amount of variable renewable energy that can be built yearly.

The least-cost scenario to 2030 is a new-build generation mix of variable renewable energy (solar PV and wind) combined with flexibility, which in the draft arises in the form of natural gas-fired generation. Pursuing such a scenario results in a power system that is 25% renewables-based by 2030 and 70% renewables-based by 2050. The least-cost plan is also R15-billion-a-year cheaper than the recommended plan by 2030.

The CSIR notes the “solid principles” contained in the draft IRP 2018, which shows that deployment of solar PV, wind and flexibility is consistent across all scenarios.

Nevertheless, notable energy planning risks are identified, including the draft document’s assumptions on the recovery of the energy availability factor of Eskom’s coal fleet to 80%, from 72%, the power station decommissioning schedule and the completion of the Eskom build programme. Likewise the science council highlights opportunities relating to the price trajectories of stationary storage and demand-side response.

“When incorporating these energy planning risks and opportunities into a risk-adjusted scenario, increased levels of new-build solar PV and wind are deployed along with some stationary storage. There is also a shift in timing of new-build capacity to 2023,” the CSIR states.

It adds that the deployment of stationary storage also results in a notable decreased deployment of flexible natural gas-fired capacity and reduced natural gas fuel offtake.

The CSIR also recommends that future IRPs be produced more frequently and be more formally linked with the outcomes of medium-term system adequacy outlook reports.

It also recommends the development of a programme that takes an integrated approach to long-term power system and services topics, such as stability, system strength, reactive power or voltage control, and variable resource forecasting.

Focused attention should be placed, it says, on further investigating and leveraging domestic flexibility sources and/or storage, including domestic fuels, such as underground coal gasification, coal-bed methane, shale gas, offshore gas, hydrogen, biomass, biogas, concentrated solar power, and alternative storage options, such as pumped storage and batteries. 

EDITED BY: Creamer Media Reporter
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