Why Ramaphosa’s energy plan does not mean cheaper electricity

Tembisa, east of Johannesburg, was gripped by violence this week when service delivery protests turned deadly. Chief among the causes of the upheaval was the township’s inadequate access to electricity — the cost of which has climbed over the years.

The recent tariff hike, which came into effect last month, could not have come at a worse time. South Africans are already feeling the pinch of high food and fuel prices, which have threatened to turn simmering discontent into scalding ire.

The protests in Tembisa come just a week after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his long-awaited plan to end load-shedding, which for the last 15 years or so has choked an economy that has been drained of jobs. The plan was lauded by some, who welcomed the president’s decision to unleash private sector investment in the energy system and to accelerate the procurement of new capacity from renewables.

But the plan is not a cure-all. Although there may at last be a future without load-shedding, experts agree that there are more electricity price hikes on the horizon, if the people in charge fail to adapt amid the transition.

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