Botswana, which is already reeling from a power shortage crisis, could loose up to 75 percent of its supply if South Africa’s political and labour interests have their way.
South Africa’s Democratic Alliance and the trade union Solidarity have proposed that South Africa should consider ending power supplies to Botswana and other countries in the region as the local shortfall was roughly the same as the amount exported.
This follows reports that South Africa supplies about 6 percent of its energy to southern African states at about a quarter of the price of the local residential rate amid a power crisis.
Botswana, on the other hand, imports about 75 percent of its power supply from South Africa.
With South Africa now in its third week of major power cuts, public enterprises minister, Alec Erwin, said that while the burden of reducing demand needed to be spread to the country’s neighbours, Eskom was required to work with neighbouring states on “a customer basis”.
The bottom line was that South Africa would be asking its neighbours “to share some of the shedding with us”, he said.
Public enterprises portfolio committee chairman, Fatima Chohan, told MPs during a debate on the energy crisis on Wednesday that, in terms of contractual obligations to African states, supplies could be cut if South Africa was under domestic pressure
At a press briefing at parliament, official opposition energy spokesperson, Hendrik Schmidt, said “charity starts at home”.
He said the portion of electricity generated at home, but sold abroad, was “not insignificant” as its effect on local demand could not be underestimated, especially when Eskom was struggling to meet that demand. He put it at 5 percent, but T-sec economist, Mike Schussler, put it at 6 percent of production.
Solidarity deputy secretary-general, Dirk Hermann, contested the suggestion – made at a press briefing last Friday by Erwin – that South Africa was a net importer of power. “That is simply not true if you look at the statistics,” said Hermann.
Schussler, who has done a study of Eskom annual reports over the past 10 years, said this week an analysis of Eskom electricity supply from 1996 to last year showed that residential and international usage had increased strongly. International use rose from 3 percent to 6 percent, as had residential use. Municipalities made up the biggest component at 40 percent of use last year, down from 42 percent in 1996.
He said South Africa was not a net importer of power. Not only was South Africa a net exporter of power, but it also sold its power at “far below” the average price that South African customers paid.
“Even the cheapest industrial electricity Eskom sells to our big industrial customers is more than 33 percent more expensive than the price neighbouring countries pay,” said Schussler.
The Eskom annual report for 2007 notes that residential users paid 41.7c per kilowatt-hour, municipalities paid 17c, commercial entities 23.5c industrial users 16c, mining 16.9c, agriculture 33.7c, while international users paid 11.1c.
Meanwhile, Statistics SA reported that the actual quantity of electricity produced from September to November last year was 65 605 gigawatt-hours – up from 63 728GWh in the same period the previous year.