South Africa: The Power Cuts Will Continue Unless SA's New Electricity Plan Translates Into Urgent New Power Procurements


History will judge current ministers harshly should they fail to act with urgency now to avoid further power cuts. It takes time to plan, design and run competitive procurement processes, and for projects to be constructed and produce electricity.

South Africa is sleep-walking into further periods of power cuts and darkness. Eskom has re-instituted load-shedding. A fifth of Eskom's power stations are broken at any one time. And no new grid-connected electricity generation capacity has been procured since November 2014, despite Eskom system adequacy reports indicating that we are short of power and risks of further power outages are high.

South Africa's national integrated resource electricity plan (IRP) should have helped us avoid this situation. Its purpose is to model the optimal mix of energy resources and demand-side interventions that would guarantee a reliable, least-cost supply of electricity. Having failed to update the plan since 2011, the government this week finally approved a new IRP.

Regrettably, the new electricity plan eschews its primary purpose of defining an optimal mix that could guide sensible investment decisions and instead settles on an uncomfortable compromise: it proposes a "balanced energy mix" that purports to offer opportunities and hope to different energy constituencies and...

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