15 July 2014

South Africa: Analysis - How Much More Electricity Generating Capacity Does South Africa Need?

Photo: Chris Kirchhoff/MCSA
Beaufort West, Western Cape province: Electricity pylons.


While most debate around South Africa's energy future tends to focus on the best source of new power generation (coal, gas, nuclear renewables), environmental issues and the role of Eskom, much less attention is given to how much generating capacity we are likely to need. But it's a critical question that needs to be answered.

The general view, backed by several policy documents such as the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP2), the National Development Plan (NDP) and so on but, also more directly, by our own experiences of blackouts (load shedding) is that South Africa has a critical electricity generating shortage and that this must be addressed by huge additional generating capacity if the country is to prosper. This is not necessarily true. Understanding how much new generating capacity is likely to be needed might very well guide us in other decisions such as the "radical restructuring" of our energy sector mentioned by President Zuma in his recent post-election State of the Nation address to Parliament.

One way of looking at things is to compare South Africa to its peers. The table below lists the 25th - 37th biggest economies in...

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