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South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan

Case Summary: 

To address water scarcity, South Africa is reducing water use in the electricity sector. The country’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), developed by the South Africa Department of Energy, includes water use as a key criterion for assessing longer-term electricity-sector investments. Under the process that led to IRP adoption in 2011, the Department of Energy and partners assessed electricity-sector options in relation to critical development and climate criteria, which served as the foundation for decision making. The IRP is also highlighted in South Africa’s INDC as a “climate compatible sectoral plan” that represents good progress in supporting GHG emission reductions. Several good practices used in developing South Africa’s 2011 IRP, detailed in the cases studies, are highlighted below.

  • Using a multi-criteria decision-making process enabled assessment of different technology options in relation to water use, local and regional development benefits, GHG emissions, electricity cost, and energy portfolio diversity. These criteria were also clearly linked with overall objectives for the electricity sector within the IRP, and they were informed by stakeholder discussions.
  • In-depth scenario development, modeling, and sensitivity analysis (for example, under differing economic conditions) with key technical institutions provided a foundation for the IRP. The analytical process occurred over 13 months and included opportunities for stakeholder input and iterative improvements.
  • Public stakeholder engagement—including two rounds of stakeholder meetings—informed the IRP significantly and resulted in substantial changes to the technology assumptions used for the IRP analyses.
  • The IRP’s time horizon of 20 years sent a clear signal to investors regarding long-term electricity-sector priorities.
  • Effective collaboration across key institutions and championing of the process by the Department of Energy enabled adoption of the IRP and other key processes highlighted above.
  • Plans for revising the IRP every two years were established to capture evolving circumstances in the electricity sector.
Country 
South Africa
Region 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Action Area 
Adaptation, Mitigation, Cross-cutting
Planning and Implementation Activity 
Developing Strategies and Plans, Analysis and Data Collection, Developing and Implementing Policies and Measures
Sectors and Themes 
Energy Efficiency, Integrated Energy Systems, Renewable Energy, Water
Source 
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
Language 
English