Expensive Oil Imports Accelerate Renewable Energy Development In South Africa

Country Overview

The Republic of South Africa is bordered by the South Atlantic Ocean, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Eswatini, and the Indian Ocean. The population of South Africa is approximately 69.45 million people.

In 2022, South Africa was ranked 37th in the world in gross domestic product (GDP). The country’s economy is dependent on the export of platinum, gold, iron ore, diamonds, coal, manganese ore, chromium ore, precious metal ore, and titanium ore.

Environmental Policies

In 2016, South Africa signed the Paris Climate Agreement, committing to a peak, plateau, and decline greenhouse gas emission program. The program is for emissions to peak between 2020 to 2025, plateau for approximately ten years and then begin to rapidly decline.

Power Generation Capabilities

In 2021, 89.3% of the people in South Africa had  access to electricity. In 2022, the state-owned utility, Eskom used coal (68.7%), oil (22.1%), renewable energy (3.9%), natural gas (3.4%), and nuclear power (1.9%) to generate electricity in South Africa. Solar and wind are the dominant types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in South Africa.

Recent renewable energy projects in South Africa include:

  • 148 MW Solar Project – French power company, Voltalia is continuing work on the Bolobedu solar project at a site approximately 700 miles northeast of the nation’s capital, Cape Town. The project is forecast to be commissioned by year-end 2024.
  • 140 MW Onshore Wind Project – In November 2020, Dutch renewable energy company, Lekela Power commissioned the Kangnas Wind project, located approximately 275 miles north of Cape Town.
  • 123 MW Onshore Wind Project – In May 2021, South African renewable energy company, BioTherm commissioned the Golden Valley Wind project, located approximately 130 miles east of Cape Town.
  • 86 MW Solar Project – In May 2023, U.S. company, Solar Capital commissioned the Northern Cape solar project at a site approximately 225 miles north-northeast of Cape Town.
  • 84 MW Onshore Wind Project – German renewable energy company, JUWI Group is continuing work on the Wolf Wind project at a site approximately 400 miles east of Cape Town. The project is forecast to be commissioned by April 2024.
  • 68 MW Solar Project – In September 2020, a consortium formed by the American investment firm, Ideas Fund, commissioned the Bokamoso Solar project, located approximately 650 miles northeast of Cape Town.
  • 4 MW Mini-Hydro Project – In March 2021, the South African power company, Red Rocket commissioned the Kruisvallei hydroelectric power station on the Ash River in the eastern region of the country.


In 2021, South African exported U.S. $6.72 Billion in coal, primarily to the People’s Republic of China. In 2022, South Africa was the 5th largest coal exporting country in the world.

Although South Africa is a major exporter of coal, the nation imports oil for power generation and transportation. In 2021, South Africa imported U.S. $7.85 Billion of refined petroleum and U.S. $5.42 Billion of crude oil.

On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, prompting the European Union, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand to place economic sanctions on Russian imports and exports. As a result, the crude oil and natural gas prices increased by over 50% from May 2021 to May 2022.

Imports of expensive refined petroleum and crude oil are threat to further increase South Africa’s rate of inflation. The economic and environmental advantages of wind and solar have encouraged South Africa to accelerate the development of new renewable energy projects.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jack kerfoot.com


Jack Kerfoot is a scientist, energy expert, and author of the book FUELING AMERICA, An Insider’s Journey and articles for The Hill, one of the largest independent political news sites in the United States. He has been interviewed on over 100 radio, podcast, and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles on a diverse range of energy issues.

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