An acceleration in economic growth holds great promise for countries around the world. However, in South Africa, it could possibly leave us in the dark.
Currently, Eskom’s fragile generation system is unable to respond to an increased demand for electricity. This means any growth within our economy can lead to power cuts.
The energy availability of Eskom’s generation fleet is meant to be as high as 80%. This however is not the case. At present, energy availability is currently as low as 69%.
At an event organised by Afriforesight in Johannesburg on Wednesday, August 21, Nelisiwe Magubane, an Eskom board member said even a 0.1% rise in the gross domestic product could result in outages.
Eskom supplies approximately 95% of South Africa’s power. Which makes the possibility of power outages a rather frightening prospect for the country.
Throughout the years, Eskom’s huge debt and it constantly relying on government bailouts to remain solvent, has been a thorn in many people’s sides. But its growing debt is not the only issue.
It is also contending with operational issues. This can be seen through a large number of its power stations nearing retirement age, which haven’t been properly maintained. Then there is the construction of two new plants, which are both running years behind schedule and are way over budget.
Since 2005, South Africa has experienced intermittent power outages – known locally as load shedding. According to Eskom, this was needed to prevent the national grid from collapsing and causing further issues.
However, outages have eased over recent months. This is mainly due to the poor performance of the country’s economy. The gross domestic product has slumped an annualised 3.2% in the first quarter, the biggest contraction in a decade.
Mike Rossouw, an independent energy advisor, says the reason South Africans have not seen load shedding recently is because of the local economy deteriorating. But, he says if demand picks up tomorrow, we will be seeing load shedding on a daily basis.
While South Africans hope for economic growth, which will enhance our ways of life, it seems we are in a Catch 22. Growth might mean improving our very way of life, but it will see the country be left in the dark.