In South Africa, the current state of electricity consumption is heavily skewed towards fossil fuels. As of 2022, a whopping 86%, almost all sourced from coal, of the country's electricity is generated from fossil fuels. On a brighter note, South Africa is making some headway in the direction of cleaner, low-carbon energy, which currently accounts for nearly 14% of the total electricity. Nuclear energy makes up a significant bulk of this low-carbon portion with about 5%, closely followed by wind at 4.5%. Solar and hydropower generate about 3% and 1.5% respectively, while biofuels contribution is negligible. It should be noted though, that South Africa is a net exporter of electricity.
Looking forward, South Africa can certainly increase its low-carbon electricity generation. There are lessons to be learned from other nations that have made significant strides in this direction. For instance, France, Ukraine and Slovakia have all successfully used nuclear power to generate more than half of their electricity. Denmark, another standout, generates over half its electricity from wind energy. South Africa could potentially replicate these successes, given the country's substantial uranium reserves and sizable wind and solar potential. Increasing investments in these low-carbon sources and forging international collaborations for technology and knowledge transfer could hasten this transition.
Regarding the historical trajectory of low-carbon electricity generation in South Africa, the country made its initial foray into nuclear power in the mid-1980s. Between 1984 and 1986, nuclear electricity output saw a substantial increase. However, in the later 1980s, there were fluctuations in nuclear electricity generation with a notable decline in 1987, only to witness a rise in 1988. The 1990s were marked by a rather uneven period, as nuclear power recorded both increases and decreases in generation. The new Millennium ushered in a period of some instability, with nuclear energy seeing declines in the years 2001 and 2005. In the more recent years of the last decade, despite some oscillations, nuclear power showed resilience and grew in 2016. Interestingly, the country also embarked on harnessing wind and solar power during this period, indicating a more diversified approach to low-carbon electricity generation. It is known that South Africa has unique potential for expanding its clean energy mix, and its continued focus on low-carbon sources is key to a sustainable energy future.