South Africa's energy supply
South Africa's steady economic growth as it increasingly focuses on industrialisation,
together with its mass electrification programme to take power into deep rural areas,
has seen a steep increase in the demand for electricity. In fact, South Africa's energy
demand is expected to be twice the current levels by 2030.
Years of underinvestment in the country's power infrastructure has meant that energy
demands are rising faster than Eskom, the state-owned company in charge of the
majority of energy generation and distribution, can meet them.
Together with Eskom, the government's Department of Energy has embarked on a
massive programme to bring the electricity supply and distribution system into
balance. With an infrastructural price tag of around R340-billion, Eskom is building
new power stations, including Medupi in Limpopo that will make its first contribution
to the grid by 2013, and Kusile, which will come on stream in mid-2014.
South Africa, which has always been heavily dependent on coal, is looking at ways to
diversify its power-generating capacity. The Development Bank, the Treasury and
Eskom are working on a renewable energy programme that involves independent
The government is also looking to support sustainable green energy initiatives on a
national scale through a diverse range of clean-energy options as envisaged in the
Integrated Resource Plan 2010. In terms of this plan, which is a 20-year projection on
electricity demand and production, about 42% of electricity generated must come
from renewable resources.
The Integrated Municipal Infrastructure Project will focus on 23 of the least-resourced
districts, and address all the upgrades and backlogs – including in electricity – needed
to serve the 17-million people living in those areas.
Independent power producers have been introduced. Including projects that cover
photovoltaic technology, wind, small hydro and concentrated solar thermal
generators, these privately held entities and facilities sell power to the government,
contributing to the country’s energy mix.
Coal, fuel, oil and gas
With abundant coal supplies, South Africa meets around 77% of its energy needs
through coal. While it is largely used to generate electricity, a significant amount is
channelled to synthetic fuel and petrochemical operations. Around 28% of coal
production is exported.
Sasol is an integrated energy and chemical company. It beneficiates coal, oil and gas
into liquid fuels, fuel components and chemicals with the help of its proprietary
Fischer-Tropsch processes. It is the largest coal-to-chemicals producer in the world.
Because of its dependence on coal, South Africa is the 14th highest emitter of
greenhouse gases. However, the country is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol,
committing it to reducing its
emissions of greenhouse gases.
The Petroleum, Oil and Gas Corporation of South Africa (PetroSA) manages the
country's commercial assets in the petroleum industry, including the world's largest
commercial gas-to-liquids plant at Mossel Bay in the Western Cape.
Most of the transport fuel is produced in the coastal areas, but about 68% of it is
consumed in inland in Gauteng. This requires investments in the storage and
distribution facilities for the supply of petroleum products at the point of need.
Transnet Pipelines commissioned a multiproduct pipeline in January 2012, which will
ensure inland demand is met as well as cut congestion between Durban and
Johannesburg by keeping tankers off the roads. The innovative infrastructure
investment – which comprises a 712km long pipeline as well as two terminals – cost
R23,4-billion to build.
Currently, around 6.5% of South Africa’s electricity is provided via Eskom's
Nuclear Power Station’s two reactors outside Cape Town.
The Nuclear Energy Policy aims to increase the role of nuclear energy as part of the
process of diversifying South Africa's primary energy sources to ensure energy
The policy will help reduce South Africa's over-reliance on coal. The long-term vision
of the policy is for South Africa to become globally competitive in the use of
innovative technology for the design, manufacture and deployment of state-of-the-art
nuclear energy systems and power reactors, and nuclear fuel-cycle systems.
State-owned Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) undertakes and
promotes nuclear energy research and development and innovation. Its reactor-
produced radiostopes are exported to more than 60 countries.
SAinfo reporter, incorporating material from the South African
Last reviewed: 27 November 2012