South Africa’s state-owned power company Eskom, which produces 90 per cent of the country’s electricity, is beleaguered with old and poorly maintained coal-fired power plants prone to breakdowns. It’s also around €23.7 billion in debt.
As demand outpaces supply, there have been scheduled blackouts - known as ‘load shedding’ - for up to 12 hours a day, impacting the lives and livelihoods of 60 million South Africans.
The nation is still largely dependent on fossil fuels, with only 7 per cent of its energy coming from renewables in 2020, according to the International Energy Agency.
So what does Ramaphosa’s announcement last week mean exactly, and could it hasten South Africa’s clean energy transition as well as resolve the immediate crisis?
The president has the power under the 2002 National Disaster Management Act to declare a crisis on this level if existing legislation cannot deal with the problem.
This gives the government powers to release resources to tackle the disaster, appoint people to provide emergency services and to bypass existing laws in the procurement and delivery of goods and services.
A cabinet member then oversees the process, heading up an intergovernmental committee to mitigate the disaster through co-ordination between national, provincial and municipal bodies and the National Disaster Management Centre.