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Comparative Study

Energy Use, Politics and Economics

South Africa

Linda Forbes

Module G11EC
Energy in the 21st Century
Lecturer: Dr Sandy Kerr

Submitted 5th December 2008

MSc Renewable Energy Development

ICIT/Heriot-Watt University

Linda Forbes G11EC – Energy in the 21st Century 1

This assignment explores and compares energy-use patterns within and between three
countries of the author’s choosing: namely Scotland, South Africa, and Spain. It discusses
the influential factors on past, current, and future energy supply and demands; before
reviewing policies and processes which are expected to deliver their country’s future energy
needs, particularly electricity. The linking theme between these three countries is their
traditional dependence on coal-mining, be that historic (as in the case of Scotland and Spain)
or current (as in South Africa), and how, these countries, each with very different political and
economic environments, are moving towards a lower-carbon renewable energy future.

Coal mining, possibly Scotland’s oldest major industry1, stretching back to the 12th century,
required substantial investment post-World War II consisting as it did of fragmented privately-
owned operations with little money. To achieve this, the industry was nationalised in 1947
under the banner of the National Coal Board, finally returning to the private sector following
the miners’ strike of 1984. Scotland’s last deep mine, Longannet, closed in 20022, whereas
Scottish Coal exploits around 4 million tonnes of coal3 annually at a number of opencast sites
in the Central Belt.

Scotland’s second energy windfall, in the form of oil, was as a consequence of the first
discoveries in the North Sea in 19654, with strikes in the Forties and Brent fields thereafter.
The optimism and expectation of prosperity arising from these finds were key features of this
period, with ‘It’s Scotland’s oil’ becoming the rallying cry of the SNP as calls for
independence from the Union reached their height.

The face of the British energy industry began to change in the 1980s when British Gas was
privatised by the Thatcher government, then followed by the break-up and sale of the Central
Generating Board and regional electricity boards in the 1990s, and culminated in the sale of
British Energy, owner of UK nuclear power plants, to Electricite de France (EDF) in 2008.

Fulfilling a Labour Party manifesto promise of 1997, devolution was granted to Scotland
following a positive referendum of the Scots; with the Scottish Parliament coming into being
in 2000. Westminster reserved to itself a range of portfolios subject to UK-wide decision-
making, whilst others became the responsibility of the devolved authority under the Scotland
Act. Although responsibility for legislation on energy
matters lies with Westminster, the Scottish
Executive (or Government, as it has renamed itself
following the SNP’s ascension post-election) has
substantial influence, using its devolved powers to
manage the planning regime. A clear example is the
differences between UK and Scottish parliaments
with regard to the building of new nuclear reactors.

South Africa 
Founded as a state in 19106, some years after the
Second Boer War between Britain and Dutch
settlers, it was not until 1994 that the first multi-racial

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elections took place, thereby returning the ANC (African National Congress) Party to power
and effectively marking the end of apartheid between indigenous and immigrant populations.
Two years later the South African Constitution was approved, which enshrined the concept of
a central government underpinned by nine provincial ones.

Endowed with substantial coal and uranium reserves, South Africa’s reliance on energy from
coal increased during the apartheid years as sanctions constrained the availability of
petroleum products from overseas. The Fischer-Tropsch7 process, which converts coal and
gas to liquid fuels, was commercialised by Sasol8 from the 1950s – then a state-owned
organisation, now privatised.

Spain, as sovereign state, comprises a number of
autonomous regions with their distinctive characters.
Each has their own government, with varying
degrees of autonomy and economic success.
Regions such as Catalonia and Asturias have
industrial histories in engineering, shipbuilding, and
coal mining, whereas Andalucia is focused on
agriculture. Internal tensions exist: the Basque
Country seeks complete independence from the
Spanish government in Madrid, punctuated by violent
attacks on politicians, the judiciary, and tourists.

The economic history of Spain was of a feudal

peasantry linked to the fortunes of the ‘latifundista’ aristocracy and monarchy: that is, until
Civil War broke out in 1936 between General Franco’s Nationalist forces and those of the
elected Republicans, and which resulted in Franco’s dictatorship of nearly 40 years. During
this period, and particularly after the Second World War (when Spain remained a neutral
country, in name at least) there was significant economic growth – a key feature being the
building of the tourist industry to attract foreign currency. Since the death of Franco in 1975
and the return to democracy with a constitutional monarchy, Spain has enjoyed further
economic growth, joining the EU in 1986 and the Euro in 1999.

Linda Forbes G11EC – Energy in the 21st Century 3

Key energy comparisons
The data below are extracted from IEA Energy Statistics 2005 tables for the United Kingdom,
South Africa, and Spain. Some indicators relate closely but of those which differ particular
attention is drawn to the CO2/GDP value for South Africa – being four to six times that of UK
and Spain: this could indicate manufacturing processes are more inefficient in South Africa,
or that GDP creation in Spain and the UK is less energy intensive i.e. services industries v
mining operations. It could also reflect the fact that electricity in South Africa is generated
using fuels which emit more CO2. The differences between South Africa’s TPES/GDP and
TPES/GDP (PPP) indicators and those of the UK and Spain confirm that each dollar earned
by South Africa requires expenditure of more primary energy.

*TPES – Total Primary Energy Supplied; GDP – Gross Domestic Product; PPP – Purchasing Power Parity

United Kingdom South Africa Spain

Future demands
None of the countries being studied are energy reserves independent, therefore energy
efficiency improvements and reductions in emissions intensity are essential weapons in
minimising energy insecurity, the need for additional generating capacity, and ultimately, the
burning of fossil fuels. If demand can be subdued by thoughtful innovation then renewable
energy is more likely to be able to meet a larger percentage of their energy needs in future.
South Africa’s target is 13% reduction in energy demand through efficiencies, whereas
Scotland and Spain are constrained by the EU Directive on energy end-use efficiency and
energy services with its 9% target by 2015. All must consider the key sectors to address
namely buildings – in use (heating/cooling) and in construction (embodied energy of
materials/curing of cement); industry and commerce – their design and manufacturing
processes, and transport – public transport systems, development of alternative fuels and
motive power, and more efficient vehicles. As fossil fuel resources reach the point of
depletion, those remaining should be reserved for uses which maximise their unique
characteristics, rather than burning them as fuel.

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Energy use
The graph of UK energy
consumption (right) shows a
steady decline in the industrial
sector through a combination of
improved efficiency and
exporting of heavy industry to
countries with lower labour
costs, while the transport sector
continues to increase. In
Scotland, in 2005, domestic use
of electricity was 29,505GWh, or
42% of the total demand, while
figures for 2006 showed a
negligible decline10.

The Scottish Energy Study11 posits continuing declines in energy use by Scottish consumers,
while that of industry and transport both increase by 15% between 2005 and 2020.

South Africa 
Generally, energy supply is state-controlled within South Africa, although proposals to
privatise some elements of
distribution have been made.
Furthermore, a substantial proportion
of energy use is casual and
uncountable in the traditional
statistical manner: data collection
prior to 1996 being influenced by
apartheid. The latest information on
consumption12 is graphed here:

While South Africa has some offshore oil and gas

deposits, approx two-thirds of its oil, or 306,000
bbl/day is imported, while gas imports by pipeline
from Mozambique can be maintained at 524 million
cubic feet/day at peak capacity. These supplement
the oil and gas distilled by Sasol from coal13. CEF
(Pty) Ltd manages South Africa’s strategic crude oil
stock as well as developing energy efficiency

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In 1996 about half of South African households were using electricity in domestic
applications: quite clearly indicating the scope for increased demand. Universal Access to
Electricity became a policy goal for 201215 and substantial progress has been made towards
this goal, with nearly
80% achieved,
despite a further 2.3
million homes (~17%
increase) being built
in the last decade16.

South Africa’s
industrial needs for
energy are high:
whereas both
Scotland and Spain
show a closer correlation between energy use for industry and that of other sectors.
However, given the relative disconnectedness of South Africa’s residential sector to the grid
this comparison may not be valid and requires further investigation.

The last thirty-five years has
seen a trebling of Spain’s
energy use, and is
particularly marked after
joining the EU. The increase
in demand in the transport
sector is believed to be
partly due to the growth of
Spain’s tourist industry, and
as its location as an
interconnecting country
between Europe and Africa,
while the expansion of the
service sector has also
contributed to the general energy-use increase18.

Spain’s import
dependency ratio
exceeds 80% of primary
energy , with the
majority of imports being
oil and gas coming from
Algeria by interconnector
pipeline via Morocco,
Nigeria, Russia and

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Electricity Generation
The Large Combustion Plants Directive was introduced to reduce emissions to atmosphere
from large combustion plants by controlling releases of dust, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen
oxides. Large power stations built after 1987 in EU countries (i.e. Scotland and Spain) must
comply with specified emissions limits, whereas pre-1987 power stations must either install
equipment to abate their emissions or close before 2016. The impact in the UK is that 30% of
conventional thermal capacity will be retired within twenty years: and the government
suggests this be replaced
with nuclear and clean
coal technologies.

Demand for electricity in

all three countries is
outstripping the capacity
of local, national and
international grids to
supply: however, there is
little evidence of
decentralised energy
networks being supported
as an alternative.

The graph above, showing UK electricity generation, displays clearly the effect of the miners’
strike on coal use in 1984 and the move to gas-fired power stations from the early 1990s.

However, the picture in Scotland is somewhat different (below); with a generating capacity of
~6GW and being more reliant on nuclear power than gas. Electricity is distributed by licensed
companies within the private sector while maintenance of the network is undertaken by
National Grid plc.

With decommissioning of the

two remaining nuclear power
plants due within the next 15
years, and the first of these –
Torness (840MW) – from
2016, the need for
replacement capacity is
pressing. Furthermore, the
UK’s supply of natural gas
from the North Sea is
dwindling, with a fall in
production to 1 million barrels
a day expected by 2021; a
quarter that in 2005.21

For the future

Linda Forbes G11EC – Energy in the 21st Century 7

The United Kingdom currently has an import dependency ratio of close to 20% of primary
energy23, and despite energy security concerns, Russia is also becoming a major supplier of
gas to the UK – with LNG pipelines, port and storage facilities being constructed recently.
Nearly 20% of the UK’s gas
demand is already being
fulfilled by pipeline from the
Norwegian Sleipner and Troll

Scottish Energy Study’s25

research proposes the fuel mix
by which Scotland’s future
electricity demands might be
met (right).

Up to 10GW of wind farm

capacity is at various stages in
the planning process, while
Scotland’s largest operational windfarm, Whitelee, which is rated at 209.3MW, has plans to
expand to 452MW, while the Crown Estate offers leases to companies for offshore wind,
wave and tidal exploitation (with 5-10GW anticipated by 2020).

However, a challenge in the renewables age is that resources are often to be found in areas
where the network is at its weakest – thus requiring substantial additional investment to
access new generation capacity. The proposal to build a new overhead line from Beauly to
Denny has encountered opposition. Feasibility studies are now considering an undersea
interconnector cable, costing in the region of £4.8bn, being laid between Shetland and the
mainland in Norfolk to support future supplies from offshore wind, wave, and tidal

South Africa 
Eskom, wholly-owned by the South African Government, currently generates 96% of South
Africa’s electricity (234,600GWh in 2006) and operates the national grid. However, rising
demand has led to ‘load shedding’ since 2007, with times when consumers should expect
power cuts being publicised on Eskom’s website. As a consequence of this shortfall in
capacity, resulting from underinvestment in plant and maintenance, Eskom has ceased
activity as an electricity exporter, impacting both on the local economy and those of other
Southern African countries.

Load shedding is a protective measure: if it did not occur then a regional or national blackout
is likely. To maintain supplies, Eskom first cuts power to organisations with an agreed flexible
loading tariff, then brings online additional power from standby hydro-electric and gas turbine
resources, and increases load factors at other power stations. This adds a further 3.5GW to
the grid but cannot be maintained indefinitely. New generation capacity of around 1GW27 is
expected to be online by next year but will make little impact overall.

The importance of coal to South African electricity generation is clear – 93% is generated
from this fuel with nuclear power at 5%, and other sources such as hydro, oil and renewables
providing only 2%28. And while a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol has yet to be

Linda Forbes G11EC – Energy in the 21st Century 8

negotiated, the South
African electricity industry is
keen to reduce its CO2
emissions whilst vulnerable
to any capping thereof. The
development of Carbon
Capture and Storage (CCS)
technologies to enable
disposal of emissions from
fossil-fuel burning power
stations is unproven and
may take up to 20 years to
be fully tested and

ESKOM also has responsibility for generation and transmission, while the final distribution to
consumers is delivered through a large number of small local electricity departments or other

For the future

The failures in energy supply sent a clear signal that a change in policy was required. The
National Energy Bill (2008) created a National Energy Modelling and Information Agency,
and an Energy Development Institute, to oversee matters concerning South Africa’s energy
supply, its optimisation and use, and includes integrated energy planning, infrastructure, and
security of supply.

When the current cycle of government investment is complete, South African generation
capacity will have doubled to 80GW and the distribution infrastructure improved to meet the
future needs of its population – many of whom do not have access to safe electricity
supplies. EDI Holdings29 was created to restructure the existing electricity distribution
network into six regional electricity distribution companies, with the twin aims of improving
efficiency and access to supplies, and in line with the Universal Access by 2012 policy
announced by Thabo Mbeki in 2004.

Six new power stations (two coal-fired, two gas turbines, two pumped storage) are being built
with some older plant being recommissioned30. A new 4000MW nuclear reactor has been
proposed; and plans for a nuclear Pebble Bed Modular Reactor to be operational by 2016
are in place31. South Africa’s need for energy in the future is such that nuclear may supply a
large percentage of its generating capacity in future: she has uranium deposits of 284,000
tonnes32, but currently operates only two nuclear power stations, rated at 1842MW in total.

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Although South Africa has
substantial solar and wind
resources available it is
only slowly starting to
invest in the renewables
sector with its first
windfarm of four turbines
opening in 200833 at
Darling. Eskom has plans
to build a 100MW solar
tower at Upington34 and
take-up of solar PV and
thermal technologies at
the domestic level is
being encouraged
through various
projects35. The
Department of Minerals and Energy has set a target of 10,000GWh of energy generation
from renewables by 2013, with both on and off-grid being eligible.

Currently not an Annex I country as defined under the Kyoto Protocol, South Africa can avail
itself of carbon credit projects under the Clean Development Mechanism. Subject to these
meeting the various criteria defined by the UNFCCC methodologies and South Africa’s own
on sustainable development, energy projects can attract financial support in building new
power stations, implementing energy efficiency programmes (such as in Kuyasa township
outside Cape Town), or developing renewable energy generation capacity, for example.
Fourteen projects have been approved to date, saving 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions
annually36 and contributing revenue from sales of the credits to support the investment.

The electricity market is liberalised with two major companies, Endesa and Iberdrola (who
also owns ScottishPower) providing 75% of generation capacity37. Generation split into two
categories – regimen ordinario for fossil-fuel generation, and regime especial for that
generated from renewables (see table38 below). Generation in the Canaries and Balearics is
shown separately: a 400kV interconnector to Majorca is planned for completion by 2010,
coming ashore near

By the end of 2007,

Spain’s wind (eolica)
generating capacity of
15,145 MW40 was
supplying 10% of the
country’s total electricity
demand, while
dependence on oil and
gas had reduced
substantially from 2006.

Linda Forbes G11EC – Energy in the 21st Century 10

Prior to then, an ever-larger percentage of generation had come to rely on imported gas41.

Transmission networks are the responsibility of Red Electrica de Espana (Spanish Electricity
Network), which 20% is state-owned, while generators are limited to owning not more than
3% of REE42. The final
distribution to consumers
is undertaken by a large
number of small
operators, as is the case
in South Africa.

For the future

Spain currently holds
second position globally
for installed wind turbine
capacity (at over 15GW),
and the government’s
target for 2010 of
20GW43 of wind energy
capacity looks achievable. Meanwhile, the Spanish Wind Energy Association estimates that
40GW onshore and 5GW offshore capacity could be operational by 2020: equivalent to 30%
of Spain’s electricity demand44.

Generation from nuclear is gradually being phased out by a moratorium on new builds. The
sustainability of hydropower generation is also being questioned: droughts, possibly as a
consequence of climate change, have affected reservoir levels badly in recent years. But the
development of large parks in the south using concentrating solar technology holds promise
for future supply. Both Andasol 1 (50MWe) in Granada and PS10 (11MW) in Seville are
operational, with a further 387MW under construction and plans for 1730MW having been

While electricity consumption within the UK has grown by under 40% in the thirty-five year
period under consideration, that of Spain and South Africa has increased by a multiple of
approx five, reflecting differing starting points between mature and emerging economic and
political situations. All three countries are, however, making efforts to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions, with both Scotland and Spain required to do so under the Kyoto Protocol, while all
continue to rely on fossil fuels to a smaller or greater extent in the meantime.

The dependence on imported gas is common to all three, with new pipelines being
constructed in the North Sea and across the Mediterranean, whereas only South Africa is
choosing to expand its nuclear power programme. It remains to be seen whether or not
Scotland can resist the pressures from Westminster to replace its ageing nuclear plant.

Hydropower forms part of the energy strategy of all three; Scotland having reached maturity
in this regard with little opportunity for large-scale expansion since the addition of Glendoe;
South Africa uses its facilities for pumped storage, and is increasingly having water level
problems due to drought (impacts which may increase with climate change) as has Spain in
recent years.

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Nature has been generous to all three in respect of renewable energy resources: Scotland
with wind, wave and tide, Spain and South Africa with wind and solar. As an early adopter of
wind turbine technology, Scotland has fallen behind, while Spain embraced it whole-
heartedly and is second only to Germany in terms of installed capacity (generating nearly
30% of the country’s electricity on one day recently). The Spanish wind industry was
supported through the intelligent use of feed-in tariffs, and whose experience is being
translated into Scotland by Iberdrola. South Africa is in its windfarm infancy but with scope
for substantial development.

Spain is developing a substantial Concentrating Solar Power industry in its poorer south,
while South Africa – with some of the world’s highest solar insolation values – is also
exploring this technology. The use of off-grid solar thermal, and to a lesser extent solar PV, is
encouraged across South Africa, particularly in more remote areas where grid infrastructure
is poor. Transmission networks in all three countries require major investment and
strengthening to meet future demand and distribution.

Scotland’s early lead in wave power experiments (Salter’s ducks) is being encouraged,
slowly, into full-scale reality by government, while research into tidal stream generation is
supported through the creation of EMEC – let us not ignore energy opportunities a second
time. And while South Africa’s unique expertise in coal-to-oil transformation adds to its CO2
emissions intensity now, it’s part of a country’s individual response to its population’s energy
needs: CCS may render it an acceptable part of future fuel mix.

Linda Forbes G11EC – Energy in the 21st Century 12


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