n Journal of Public Administration - The role of government in ensuring an affordable supply of electricity in South Africa : challenges and future prospects

Volume 48, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



Electricity serves as one of the most critical functions in the development and prosperity of a nation. It is the pivotal axis upon which economies turn, and human existence is made bearable. With regards to both the former and the latter pronouncements, it can be noted that the availability of reliable and affordable sources of electricity are pre-requisite for industrialization, technological innovation, maintaining a reasonable cost of living, stable inflationary outlook and so on. Any modern society, its economy and formal institutions, if deprived of electric power would surely come to a grinding halt and perhaps fall into chaos. The South African government, through its state owned enterprise (SOE) for energy production and distribution, the Electricity Supply Commission (ESKOM), finds itself on the precipice of just such a chaotic state of affairs. The current South African electricity supply crisis was characterized on the one hand by frequent and prolonged power outages starting in the year 2005, and on the other hand policy decisions revolving around pricing coal produced electricity to take account of current and future infrastructural needs as well as capital investment in newer cleaner technologies. The result thereof, saw tariff increases of 25% per year from 2010 to present, and at the time of writing this article (in 2013) Eskom is requesting an additional 16% per year increase over the ensuing 5 years. This article seeks to briefly explore some of the causes of this crisis; the effects of the crisis on citizens and the economy; and lastly attempts to explore the way forward in terms of ensuring an end to the state of crisis in electricity supply vis-à-vis resolving this crisis and avoiding future ones.

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