South Africa

Index rank 79

Balance Score


Energy Sustainability Index Rankings and Balance Score

 2011  2012  2013  Trend Score
Energy Performance  93  97  93   
Energy Security  52  55  43  B
Energy Equity  73  75  78  C
Environmental Sustainability  129  129  128  D
Contextual Performance  43  49  51   
Political Strength  55  55  52   
Societal Strength  72  84  84   
Economic Strength  17  17  20   
Overall Rank  80  84  79  BCD
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Fossil Fuel Reserves

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Key Metrics

Industrial sector (% of GDP) 32.1
TPEP / TPEC  (net energy exporter) 1.10
Emission intensity (kg CO2 per USD) 0.74
Energy affordability (USD per kWh) 0.06
GDP / capita (PPP, USD); GDP Group 11,029 (III)
Energy intensity (million BTU per USD) 0.29
CO2 emissions (metric tons CO2 per capita) 7.10
Population Access to Electricity (%) 82.7
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Index Commentary

South Africa, one of the ‘Highly-industrialised’ countries, improves five places to 79 in the overall Index rankings. Typical of the ‘Highly-industrialised’ group, South Africa’s stronger energy security and energy equity rankings have come at the high price of its poor performance on the environmental sustainability dimension, resulting in an imbalance between the three sides of the energy trilemma. In energy security, South Africa’s strongest dimension, performance remains average as a result of a homogenous electricity mix that relies heavily on coal. However, South Africa’s ranking improves slightly this year due to the net exporter’s slowing energy consumption growth rate and its increasing oil reserves. Energy equity remains low in South Africa, as gasoline and electricity prices become more expensive. South Africa ranks second-to-last globally on environmental sustainability and struggles with every indicator in this dimension. This is due to the country’s almost sole reliance on coal for electricity generation, extremely high per-capita emissions rates, and a slow development of renewable energy sources, despite bountiful natural endowments of sun and wind potential. Overall contextual performance for South Africa remains relatively constant, with decent macroeconomic stability and a high-availability of domestic credit cementing its economic strength, while indicators of societal strength like health and education fail to improve.

Trends and Outlook

South Africa’s energy security dimension and Index ranking does not yet reflect the positive developments since 2008 which include no incidents of electricity load shedding or liquid fuel rationing.

Most recently, independent power producers (IPPs) are being allowed into the electricity sector using renewable technologies. Once these are operational, the energy security and environmental performance dimensions will show an improvement.

Issues policymakers should focus on are: 1) there is still much to be done on the social equity dimension, especially in terms of providing energy to rural communities; and 2) South Africa has abundant coal reserves but no natural gas or oil. The choice of technology for replacement and new electricity generation plant will be a very difficult one, especially since the issues of access and affordability are so critical to the social and economic development of the country.