Vijay Jayaraj – June 6, 2022
South Africa — supposedly one of Africa’s advanced economies — is reeling under severe power shortages and daily rolling blackouts — some for as long as eight hours.
In May, most households, commercial buildings, and industries experienced hours of blackouts. The South African state-run power utility ESKOM supplied no power between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. due to a “loss of generation capacity.”
Last month, social unrest was reported in parts of the country after frustrated citizens took to the streets to protest power failures, cable theft, and years of inefficiency at Eskom.
The utility has been notorious for corruption, poor maintenance, and failure to increase generation capacity.
Reports indicate that “South Africa is poised for 101 days of power outages this year.” In 2021, only 65 days had power outages. But the current situation is only set to get worse, thanks to a woke climate agenda that Eskom and the South African government have embraced.
According to the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan, 24,100 megawatts of conventional thermal power sources (mainly coal) will be decommissioned by 2050 and be replaced with renewable technology.
As a part of the plan to reduce reliance on conventional energy sources, South Africa is likely to accept money from a climate fund offered by a consortium of countries. Bloomberg reported, “The arrangement (climate fund) would enable Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. to access the $8.5 billion pledged by the U.S., U.K., Germany, France and the European Union… The company wants to use the money to fund the closing of some coal-fired power plants and the construction of renewable-energy facilities to replace them.”
Eskom is also poised to receive $2.8-billion from the African Development Bank, some of which would be used to help the utility transition to a “low-carbon” system over the next five years — a move that would make Eskom even more inefficient. The bank has stopped funding fossil fuel projects in Africa and is engaged in decreasing the continent’s conventional energy capacity.
This transition makes no sense whatsoever. In 2021, 84% of all electricity produced in South Africa came from coal. Only five percent was produced by wind and solar, and increasing their share will only exacerbate South Africa’s power shortages.
This is because both wind and solar provide only intermittent power, with no non-conventional backup solution available at a commercial scale. Globally, renewable intensive power networks rely on backup support from conventional energy sources like coal, gas, and nuclear.
In South Africa’s case, the conventional coal infrastructure is already in a dismal state, suffering from outdated facilities and lack of investment. If funds are further diverted towards renewable infrastructure, the prospect for the entire power network is bleak indeed.
It takes decades of development to make a power sector efficient and effective. South Africa is illustrating that an electricity system can be destroyed more quickly.
Access to electricity in rural South Africa was at an all-time high of 82 percent in 2014. By 2020, the inefficiency of Eskom coupled with its woke climate agenda had pushed the rural electrification rate down to 75 percent. The overall electrification rate (urban and rural) has plateaued since 2014, showing no marked improvement.
Eskom’s promise to reduce coal-fired generation over the next 30 years threatens to drive South Africa’s 62 million people further into an abyss of rolling blackouts and attendant economic damage.
Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Va., and holds a Master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, England. He resides in Bengaluru, India.
First published here at American Thinker on June 6, 2022.