South Africa’s government is bracing for more frequent and longer electricity outages as the state-owned power utility’s aged and poorly maintained plants continue to deteriorate.
The nation has been subjected to rolling blackouts, known locally as load shedding, since 2008, with 4,000 megawatts of capacity currently being cut from the grid to ensure it doesn’t collapse. The ongoing energy shortages were a major contributor to the economy’s 0.7% contraction in the second quarter.
The co-chairs of group of cabinet ministers who oversee the economy on Thursday called for the deterioration in the energy availability factor from plants operated by Eskom, which supplies most of the nation’s power, to be addressed.
“We must work on that and we must do so urgently in view of the current load shedding,” Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe told a briefing in Pretoria, the capital.
Besides a lack of energy security, a weak business climate, logistical constraints and a sub-optimal freight-rail network were identified by the cabinet as constraints to economic growth. Protests along major arterial routes and damage to infrastructure had also made South Africa’s transport network unreliable, Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi said at the same briefing.
“Other countries end up finding an alternative” to transit goods when roads to and from the eastern port of Durban are closed, she said. “That is why you see the Maputo port growing in terms of traffic while ours are reducing because we are becoming unreliable,” she said, referring to the harbor in neighboring Mozambique.
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