South Africa’s Energy Crisis Solutions Must Include Collaboration with Other African States
By NJ Ayuk
JOHANNESBURG – On Tuesday, Nov. 9, 1965, 30 million people living in an 80,000-square-mile swath of North America were plunged into total darkness by an electricity blackout that lasted 13 hours.
The power failure, which struck Ontario, Canada, and 10 U.S. states, could not have come at a worse time — rush hour — or in a worse place: its epicenter was New York City. There, an estimated 800,000 subway commuters were stranded underground, and thousands of office workers were stuck between floors in skyscraper elevators. Planes couldn’t land at darkened airports, and surgeons reportedly worked by flashlight after hospital backup generators failed.
The world was aghast that something like this could happen in such a rich nation.
Clearly, the power failure was no laughing matter at the time. Yet just three short years later, what remains to this day one of the biggest blackouts in history was being parodied on screen in the American comedy, Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?
For South Africans, where were you when the lights went out? is hardly a funny question, and the answer is probably which time? Because of load shedding by state-owned South African electricity provider Eskom, frequent, widespread rolling blackouts have been happening since 2008. And though the purpose of load shedding is to prevent the entire power generating system from failing under high demand — avoiding the kind of catastrophe that beset North America nearly 60 years ago — unreliable electricity has taken a toll on South Africa’s people, businesses, and institutions, not to mention the country’s financial wellbeing.
As the African Energy Chamber’s (AEC) new report, The State of South African Energy, notes, it’s not unusual for power to be interrupted for about six hours per day. That’s six hours per day when the engines of the continent’s most industrialized and technologically advanced economy are shut down. It’s been estimated that losses related to power outages amount to somewhere between 1.5 billion rand and 4 billion rand (about $87 million to $232 million) per day. According to the AEC report, South Africa’s economy could have been 17% larger than it is today if load shedding never needed to be implemented (imagine what that would do for the nation’s 34%+ unemployment rate). Despite government efforts to right the ship, so far the problem shows no sign of reversing: 2022 was the worst year ever for power cuts, with South Africa losing about 205 days of electricity.
While the 1965 Northeastern Blackout was eventually traced to a simple cause — a faulty protective relay at a Canadian power station — the reason for South Africa’s electricity woes is more complex and has been brewing for nearly two decades. But mainly what it comes down to is this: Eskom’s coal-fired power plants are old, defective, and undermaintained, so breakdowns are nearly constant. The lack of investment in new generating capacity doesn’t help, of course, and neither do factors South African President Cyril Ramaphosa outlined in a January 2023 blog post: corruption and criminality, sabotage of infrastructure, rising municipal debt, and a lack of suitable skills. Taken together, he said, they represent a “perfect storm” of problems.
Just as all eyes were on America after the 1965 blackout, the world is watching for South Africa’s long-overdue response to its coal-driven energy crisis. It’s no surprise that climate activists have seized the opportunity to say this is why Africa needs renewables. (As we all know, they’ve been beating the anti-fossil fuel drum for some time, running fervent campaigns against oil and gas that include what amounts to outright bans on project financing). And considering that the CO₂ emissions produced by Eskom’s coal-fired plants help place South Africa among the world’s top-20 emitting countries, their point is well-taken, at least in that regard. Even President Ramaphosa has jumped on the renewables bandwagon, describing how solar panels on the roofs of houses and businesses can become a source of new generating capacity, with customers able to sell surplus electricity into the grid.
While the AEC has long supported the role of renewables in expanding reliable electricity to Africans, ramping up enough solar and wind power to make a meaningful difference isn’t something that can happen overnight.
As the AEC report notes, however, South Africa is fortunate to have other options that won’t take years or even decades to deploy. South Africa’s energy challenges will be front and center at African Energy Week scheduled to take place on 16-20 October in Cape Town.
Count on the Neighbors
For one thing, the nation should accelerate its own gas agenda to alleviate persistent electricity issues. That includes fast-tracking production license permitting for TotalEnergies’ Brulpadda and Luiperd prospects in the Outeniqua Basin, 175 kilometers offshore the southern coast of South Africa — discoveries representing combined reserves of 3.4 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas and 192 million barrels of gas condensate. According to published news reports, while some gas from the project will be used in petrochemical manufacturing, a pipeline will carry significant volumes to Eskom’s Gourikwa power plant — making the project integral to South Africa’s gas-to-power aspirations as well as to weaning itself off coal-dominated energy generation.
But increased gas production may not be enough, at least in the short term, to resolve South Africa’s pressing energy crisis. I believe South Africa should also continue to build upon intra-African collaboration, using African resources to generate and deliver energy domestically rather than exporting it abroad. One place South Africa is already making inroads is with neighboring Mozambique, which has emerged as a major global gas competitor after blockbuster offshore natural gas discoveries.
The report looks at the proposed African Renaissance Pipeline (ARP) project, which will link Mozambique’s vast gas reserves to South Africa via a 2,600-kilometer (1,500-mile)-long onshore pipeline and is expected to expand electricity access throughout the region.
Not only will the ARP carry liquefied natural gas (LNG) to major cities along the pipeline route, but regional extensions will also provide LNG for electricity to Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Botswana, and Malawi. In addition to providing an accessible energy source for electricity generation, the ARP will reduce those nations’ oil import bills.
Construction of the pipeline is scheduled to begin in 2023, but domestic users are already queuing up. There’s interest in almost 60% of the pipeline’s annual capacity, which is estimated to be 18 billion cubic meters (bcm).
The ARP isn’t the only project tying South Africa and Mozambique. South African energy company Gigajoule and joint development partner TotalEnergies expect their $550 million Matola LNG import terminal in Mozambique to become a major LNG supplier to South Africa. The project will use the existing Rompco gas pipeline between Mozambique and South Africa to meet growing gas demand throughout Africa’s southern region. And, if South African Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe has his way, Matola will provide the feedstock for three power plants in Mpumalanga province that are currently running on coal. (While Matola remains on track for first gas in two years, Randburg-based Renergen began delivering South Africa’s first domestically produced commercial LNG last December.)
The Promise of Namibia
Mozambique’s new developments aren’t the only ones South Africa may eventually be able to turn to for a neighborly injection of electricity-generating energy.
Namibia is also on the cusp of becoming a regional hydrocarbon hub, although more work needs to be done to prove how much gas volumes its oil-rich Orange Basin holds. The AEC report describes early successes by Shell Plc and TotalEnergies at their offshore Graff and Venus wildcat wells and La Rona-1 exploration probe. The Venus-1 wildcat alone is targeting a prospect with multiple billions of barrels of oil. How much associated gas is present in the basin remains to be determined, but it’s possible there’s anywhere from 10 to 20 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas just in the vicinity of Venus-1.
Getting Namibian gas to South Africa won’t happen overnight, of course. It will take time and money to develop the discoveries and build export infrastructure. But, as the AEC report says, Namibia’s role as a natural gas exporter to South Africa cannot be ruled out. And that means that there’s hope that in the future, the question where were you when the lights went out, will be relegated to South African history.
Nyeri teen arrested with homemade gun, bhang to be charged
By Wanja Waweru
A 19-year-old guy was detained by police in Nyeri County after being discovered in possession of a handmade gun that could fire and marijuana.
The National Police Service (NPS) said in a statement that the young man was detained as a result of a tip from the general public.
“Police officers from Munyange Police Station arrested a 19-year-old suspect after he was found in possession of a home-made pistol, stones of cannabis sativa and rolls of the same. He has been remanded in police custody,” the statement read in part.
The NPS also expressed gratitude to the general public for helping to support community police in the battle against crime and illegal narcotics.
A police officer assigned to the General Service Unit (GSU) was also found in possession of a handmade pistol the day before the teen’s arrest.
A failed heist in Kasarani sub-county led to the arrest of Mr. Graham Ndichu Chege, a GSU officer.
On Monday, May 29, 2023, Nairobi News broke the exclusive that the suspect has been on police radar for more than four months.
Officers worried about an armed gang terrorizing people in Kasarani Sub-County knew when, not if, Mr. Chege would be apprehended.
The suspect was being questioned about more robberies that had occurred nearby, according to an investigator with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) who is aware of the current inquiries.
“Officers involved in the matter believe that he was the one leading a gang that has been giving the locals in this sub-county a hard time. Plans are also underway to arrest his accomplices,” said the officer, who spoke in confidence as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
According to a police report reviewed by this reporter, Mr. Paul Maina said that three individuals on motorcycles and carrying pistols robbed him at gunpoint of his cell phone at the Cooperative area along Kamiti Road.
“Police officers on foot patrol responded very quickly and with the help of bodaboda riders they chased the suspects to Juja Weighbridge where the suspect’s motorcycle developed mechanical problem and Mr Chege was arrested,” the report reads in part.
As a GSU officer assigned to the GSU Headquarters and Transit Section, Mr. Chege then revealed to the officers that he was to them.
When the police searched him, they discovered a makeshift pistol that they claimed might fire.
“A bloodstained broken knife and a motorcycle with registration number KMFH 031U, make Ranger Black, were recovered,” the police report added.
Kenyans ranked 87th most unhappy people in the world
The top 20 most miserable persons, according to Hanke’s Annual Misery Index, created by Steve Hanke, modified and ratified by Harvard University, and published by The Wall Street Journal, are listed below.
Inflation, unemployment, and high interest rates are the main causes of these people’s misery.
Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Lebanon, and Sudan took the top five positions.
Ranked sixth to tenth were Argentina, Yemen, Ukraine, Cuba, and Turkey.
Sri Lanka, Haiti, and Angola were 11th, 12th, and 13th, while Tonga, Ghana, and South Africa were 14th, 15th, and 16th. Ranked 17th to 20th were Suriname, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, and Rwanda.
At the bottom of the list in 87th place was Kenya with a misery index of 29.264 and the main factor contributing to its misery was the interest rate on loans.
Vihiga: Section of Secondary School dorm razed, no injuries
On Tuesday evening, a portion of a dormitory at Ebunangwe Boy’s Secondary School in Vihiga County caught fire.
Billy Maloba, a witness to the incident, estimates that the fire started at 8 o’clock.
“No one was injured in the accident since it happened when the students were doing their night preps in class,” he said.
Ebunangwe is a mixed boarding and day school.
The school has only one dormitory.
“It was raining around that time so it took a while for people to notice the fire,” Maloba, who said he lives a few metres from the school, said.
He claimed that once the fire was put out by the locals, the Vihiga fire department arrived.
Since property with an unknown value was destroyed, the cause of the fire has not yet been identified.
By the time of publication, the school still had not released a statement regarding the incident.
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