In 1882, Kimberly was the first city in South Africa to be illuminated by electric streetlights. In 1891, the first central power station and distribution system was set up in Cape Town. In 1923, the Electricity Supply Commission (ESCOM) was established and was responsible for providing electricity to consumers. In 1987, ESCOM was renamed Eskom, which is state-owned and centralised.
The electricity grid in the country forms part of an international grid that supplies electricity to countries in the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), comprising of
Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, and South Africa. Electricity in South Africa is supplied by Eskom’s power stations, Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and suppliers from SAPP. In 2021, Eskom’s generating capacity was 46466 MW, with its baseload stations comprising coal-fired power stations (38773 MW) and nuclear power (1860 MW); its mid-merit and peaking power stations comprising pumped storage (2724 MW), hydro stations (600 MW) and OCGTs (2409 MW); and a self-dispatching wind farm (100 MW). The share of electricity (mostly wind and solar) supplied by IPPs is growing in South Africa.
The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) regulates the electricity industry under the National Energy Regulatory Act of 2004 and the Electricity Regulation Act of 2006. NERSA is responsible for providing regulatory rules, licences, guidelines and codes. Nuclear power regulation is carried out by the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) to ensure compliance with nuclear safety standards.
The electricity grid in South Africa faces various challenges, including ageing infrastructure, electricity theft and vandalism, and delays in getting IPPs connected to the grid. Ageing power stations, lack of maintenance, design inefficiencies, and poor performance of new power stations have led to an unreliable electricity supply in the country. Load shedding is a measure used to protect the grid from total collapse. In 2022, load shedding Stage 1 to Stage 6 have been taking place regularly, aimed at removing up to 1000 MW and up to 6000 MW from the grid, respectively.
Eskom’s relative particulate emissions over the past decade varied from 0.27 to 0.47 kg/MWh of energy sent out, with an upward trend. In 2021, Eskom did not meet the target for its relative particulate emissions, with a target value was 0.32 kg/MWh, the actual reported value was 0.38 kg/MWh. However, Eskom revealed that the reported value was understated as the monitors were operating beyond their effective range. This resulted in particulate emissions exceeding a certain limit could not be recorded.
Compiled using data from Eskom Integrated Report 2021.
Eskom urgently needs to add more generation capacity, including more renewable energy, to prevent load shedding and reduce emissions.
- 2022. Electricity in South Africa – Early Years. https://www.eskom.co.za/heritage/the-early-years/#:~:text=Electricity%20was%20publicly%20used%20in,benefit%20of%20shipping%20and%20commerce [Accessed December 2022].
- 2022. The Years of Establishment – “Electrifying our beloved country”. https://www.eskom.co.za/heritage/history-in-decades/escom-1923-1932/ [Accessed December 2022].
- 2022. The years of expansion and change – “Electricity for all”. https://www.eskom.co.za/heritage/history-in-decades/eskom-1983-1992/ [Accessed December 2022].
- Eskom 2019 Integrated Report. https://www.eskom.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Eskom_2019_integrated_report.pdf [Accessed December 2022].
- Eskom 2021 Integrated Report. https://www.eskom.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/2021IntegratedReport.pdf [Accessed December 2022].
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard South Africa Country Manager Deepti Charitar