South Africa’s energy supply

South Africa’s strong economic growth, rapid industrialisation and a mass electrification programme led, by early 2008, to demand for power outstripping supply. The multi-faceted plan to correct this includes spending a projected R343- billion over five years to fund a new generation of power stations.

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.

Green energy

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 power producers.

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 solar 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.

Nuclear power

Currently, around 6.5% of South Africa’s electricity is provided via Eskom’s Koeberg 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 security.

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.

Brand South Africa reporter, incorporating material from the South African Yearbook

Last reviewed: 27 November 2012

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