South Africa Energy Crisis

The energy crisis in South Africa has prompted continued calls for government action, and officials in January said an energy action plan announced last year is starting to be implemented. The plan was laid out by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa a year ago, and designed with a long-term goal of securing a reliable supply of electricity for the country. The country’s central bank recently said the energy situation is costing South Africa $51 million each day there is power rationing, with 250 days of blackouts expected this year—representing a nearly $13 billion hit to the economy.

Mondli Gungubele, a government minister, at a news conference in late January said, “There is no immediate panacea to this crisis,” which has become a critical issue as power utility Eskom has implemented stage 7 load-shedding—removing more than 7 GW of electricity from the national grid to prevent it from collapsing, by cutting power to different parts of the country at various times. It also is developing a plan for stage 8 cuts to the power system.

Load-shedding, accomplished through a series of rolling blackouts, has been part of South Africa’s power grid since 2007. Gungubele, though, said the government is working to “ensure full and effective implementation of the Energy Action Plan,” even as Johannesburg residents continue to live with blackouts occurring for hours at a time, as often as three times each day. Officials said a stage 8 situation would mean people could be without electricity for up to 14 hours a day.

Eskom reported that more than 23 GW of generation was offline as of Feb. 28, with more than 19 GW out of service due to unplanned breakdowns, and another 4.2 GW down for planned maintenance. Government data shows South Africa has about 54 GW of installed power generation capacity.

Most of South Africa’s electricity—nearly 80%—is produced at coal-fired power plants, with much of the rest generated by facilities burning oil and diesel, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. About 5% of the country’s power comes from two reactors at the Koeberg nuclear power station, with the rest generated by renewable power resources.