Written by Ethan Mills
An energy crisis became a reality for South Africa this year as the national utility company Eskom announced on Twitter that load shedding would occur in January, threatening the country with a nationwide power outage. Following their tweet were three months of rolling blackouts, leading to South Africa suffering from almost complete darkness and without warmth for the winter due to the limited grid capacity and generation falling short of demand.
This has inevitably stunted Africa’s second biggest economy, and power cutoffs are suspected to sustain for the next two to three years. Over the past decade, Sub-Saharan Africa has demonstrated strong economic activity, but electricity shortages are preventing these nations from catching up with the rest of the world.
To address the impact from these electricity shortages, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are discussing the possible construction of renewable energy centre.
At the 34th SADC meeting, the organisation revealed their proposal and set goals to establish the centre by the end of 2015, which will focus on practical implementation of clean energy. Having narrowed down their options to three bidders, the winning bidder would host the centre in eight nations, where research will be conducted to develop policies for Southern Africa’s energy needs.
Details such as the budget will depend on the winning bid, though the Austrian Development Agency and United Nations Industrial Development Organisation will be funding the first three years of the project. Other topics that were part of the discussion include the vitality of renewable energy across the continent as well as the persistent issue of load shedding.
Power outages haven’t only been in issue in Africa, as they’ve also been a regular occurrence in the Middle East with conflict persisting in the region. Gaza has been the centre of blackouts with locals suffering from 12 hours of no power each day, while areas in Lebanon experience outages ranging from 3 to 18 hours a day. Basrah in Iraq, where Unaoil is currently repairing gas compressor stations, has endured consecutive days without electricity and at times the blackouts would coincide with days that had temperatures reaching up to 50 degree celsius.