South Africa is among the largest three energy producers and suppliers on the African continent. This energy sector is in need of industrialization. As of 2019, the largest sector that used electricity in the country was the industry sector, at up to 56 percent of total consumption, followed by energy for residential reasons at 19 percent. This can be linked to the importance of energy for economic growth. However, a present problem is that access to electricity did not reach the whole population, with an estimation that by 2025 roughly 86.2 percent of the population would have access to electricity.
Production and consumption
In the last decade, South Africa's energy production was dominated by coal. As of 2018, roughly 95.5 percent of the total primary energy generated, some 5.9 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), was via coal. This reliance on coal causes the country to be one of the highest carbon dioxide emitters worldwide. Between 2005 and 2018, it was evident that the country's primary power produced exceeded the primary energy consumed. Although coal also had the highest share in the usage of primary energy, it was significantly lower in absolute numbers at 3.85 quadrillion Btu. Moreover, another source of energy are petroleum and other liquids, with almost 24.7 percent of total power consumed. Throughout the same period, the most southern nation on the African continent generated a small share of nuclear energy, which was usually equal to that consumed.
Renewable energy capacity
Seemingly, the country still has a long way ahead of it before it can successfully reduce its carbon fingerprint. In fact, it is projected that the renewable energy share will be around 18.7 of total energy consumption by 2025. By 2050, and if South Africa has fully transitioned to sustainable energy by then, it is predicted that solar PV plants will account for the highest energy source in the energy mix. In 2019, the total renewable energy capacity in South Africa was at its highest at 6.167 thousand megawatts. Hydropower energy had the largest share at almost 3.5 million megawatts, however, it was mainly pure pumped storage. Solar energy had the highest percentage of the total renewable energy capacity with approximately 49.6 percent. Nevertheless, wind energy also had its fair share, at around 34 percent. Between 2010 and 2019, significant growth in clean energy ability was recorded, with an overall increase of 521 percent, which is much needed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
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Research Expert covering the economy and society on Egypt, South Africa, and Ethiopia