A+ A-

Power vs energy vs old age: what’s been plunging SA into the dark?

South Africa’s national electrical grid system is under increasing strain due to aging infrastructure, insufficient maintenance, and a lack of real-time monitoring. This is a palpable contrast to the world-class electrical grid of the 1980s in South Africa. Professor Xiaohua Xia from the University of Pretoria recently completed a report on the current state of SA’s energy research to look for answers to this problem.

Since the infamous rolling blackouts of 2008, Eskom has taken steps to deal with power shortages across the country using a combination of energy efficiency efforts and Demand Side Management interventions.

According to Prof Xia, who leads the Centre of New Energy Systems (CNES) in the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering (EECE), the cyclical nature of energy demand in South Africa is one of the major energy challenges faced by Eskom.

He says that peak demand in the evenings and in winter can put excessive strain on the national grid, while there is more than enough energy available during downtime. According to Eskom, steps taken to reduce power cuts have saved 4000MW of energy at a very reasonable cost of R3,75 million/MW.

Moreover, municipal energy efficiency interventions like solar water geysers and more efficient streetlights have also had a positive impact. The recently published Section 12L regulations by the National Treasury allow industries to claim a tax allowance of R 0.95 per kWh saved from a baseline amount.

Prof Xia and his group were recently approached by the South African Academy of Science to perform a national benchmarking exercise probing the State of Energy Research in South Africa.

“They wanted an independent look at the status of energy efficiency research in SA,” he says. “We did an overview on the country, where we compared different centres, different topics, and different scientists.”

The group found that insufficient funding is devoted to energy research and there is a lack of coordination in both the research community and government departments.

Despite recent improvements, the country’s national electricity supplier still walks a fine line between supply and demand, which is made more risky by aging and poorly maintained grids and power stations. Improving research and coordination will go a long way to addressing these issues.

Eskom’s conventional power infrastructure is aging, threatening to plunge SA into the dark once more. Research at UP is helping address the challenge. Source: Creamer Electricity Report 2014.


A researcher at UP works on improving the energy efficiency of a motor system. Industrial energy efficiency can help keep the lights on in SA.

Privacy Policy

The University is firmly committed to protecting the privacy of users of the website. No personal information about users of this website will be disclosed to a third party without the prior consent thereto by the user. (Personal information shall at all times be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the Protection of Personal Information Act, 2013 (Act 4 of 2013).)

The University reserves the right to automatically collect information on users' usage of the website (for example, via cookies) in order to improve users' browsing and interaction with the University and for non-personal statistical purposes.

Changes to this privacy policy

The University reserves the right to change, amend, or update this privacy policy periodically.

Modifications to the website

The University reserves the right to modify, change, amend or discontinue the website (or any part thereof) temporarily or permanently, without prior notice.


The University may provide links to other websites or resources. This does not imply the University's endorsement of such sites. The University does not have any control over these websites and will, therefore, not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising from the utilisation of these websites by users.

The University does not prohibit third-party sites to link to publicly visible content on this website. However, it is expressly prohibited for any third party to frame any page on this website in any way whatsoever without the prior written approval of the University.

University of Pretoria proprietary rights

The copyright and other intellectual property rights (which include the University’s brand and logo), which are owned by or licensed to the University, existing in and attaching to this website, are the property of the University. These include but are not limited to text, content, design, layout, graphics, organisation, digital conversion and other information related to the website.

Users are granted a non-exclusive, non-transferable, revocable licence to:

  • access and use this website strictly in accordance with these terms;
  • use this website solely for personal, non-commercial purposes; and
  • download or print out or distribute content from the website, or any part thereof, solely for personal, non-commercial purposes, provided that all copyright and other intellectual property notices therein are unchanged.

Any reproduction of the content of this website, or a portion thereof, must include the following copyright notice: ©University of Pretoria. Users who wish to use the content from this website for commercial purposes may only do so with prior written permission from the University.


This website is for information purposes only. No representations or warranties are given by the University of Pretoria (hereafter referred to as the University) regarding the accuracy of the information this website contains, any material this website provides for or any part of this website. Any reliance by the user on any information this website contains, any material this website provides for or any part of this website, is at the user’s own risk and the University shall not be liable in any way whatsoever in respect of the user or any other person, directly or indirectly, arising from the utilisation of the information this website contains, any material this website provides for or any part of this website.

The user hereby agrees that in the event of any dispute arising from the utilisation of this website in any manner, form or substance whatsoever, the relevant South African law will apply and the appropriate courts of South Africa will have jurisdiction.

Terms & Conditions

By accessing this website, the user hereby agrees to the following:

The use of this website is at the user’s sole risk. This website is provided on an "as is" and "as available" basis. The University gives no warranty that (i) the information posted on this website will meet the user’s requirements; (ii) the information posted on this website will be uninterrupted, timely, secure, virus free or error free; and (iii) the information posted on this website will be accurate or reliable.

Any material downloaded from or otherwise obtained through this website is utilised at the user’s own risk, and the user will, therefore, be liable for any and all damages of any nature whatsoever arising from such utilisation of the website.

Limitation of liability

The user expressly understands and agrees that the University shall not be liable for any damages (subject to the provisions of Chapter 2 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2008 (Act 68 of 2008) (even if the University has been advised of the possibility of such damages) resulting from: (i) the use or the inability to use the website; (ii) the cost of procurement of substitute goods and services resulting from any data, information or services obtained or messages received or transactions entered into through the website; (iii) unauthorised access to or alteration of the user’s transmissions or data; (iv) statements or conduct of any third party on the website; or (v) any other matter relating to the website.