SA’S ENERGY REVOLUTION
It’s going to cost trillions of rand to keep South Africa’s lights on. A more accurate estimate is impossible at this point, but it’s a fact that fixing the country’s electricity supply problems will require the most ambitious and expensive capital expansion programme that the country has ever embarked upon.
Questions about the affordability and f inancing of such an expansion programme have been thrown around for the last five years, stalling progress to a large extent. This noise is now dying down as the country’s electricity supply reaches crisis level. When the lights start going out regularly, then most arguments about the need for new energy projects tend to fade away.
President Jacob Zuma mentioned the word ‘energy’ 29 times in his last State of the Nation Address, the first of his second term as president, thereby signalling the intention to use his last term to revitalise the energy sector.
It may become his greatest legacy. If he gets it right.
The projects which the president is mooting are bold and – many would say – outrageous. It will lead to reams of front-page debates and scandal headlines in the years to come. The question however must be asked: can SA afford to prolong the roll-out of projects like fracking, new coal-fired power stations, renewable energy projects and a nuclear build programme any longer?