South Africa has been hit with a power crisis in recent weeks. Electricity demand has been so high that Eskom, the South African power monopoly, has not been able to keep up with demand. This lack of regular energy has caused gold mines in the country to shut down, and has caused many other problems. If you’re curious to see what, just check out Google for a wide number of articles.
Eskom’s proposed solution is a month of blackouts in an attempt to stabilize the power grid, followed by rationing of power to all customers starting in March. South Africa is the largest economy on the African continent, and Eskom exports surplus electricity to other African nations. Their inability to meet demand will have widespread ramifications for Southern Africa far beyond the borders of South Africa proper. Already, precious metals prices are rising in response to lowered production from mines in the region.
This story is intriguing to me because South Africa is considered by most people to be a modern, industrial economy, and it’s inability to supply regular power to it’s customers will make an interesting case study for those of us interested in Richard Duncan’s Olduvai Theory. As you may remember, Duncan’s premise is that industrial civilization ends when the power grids go down permanently. While we won’t be seeing that in South Africa, we will get a chance to see how interrupted supplies of electricity, combined with mandatory conservation programs, will affect what was a growing modern economy.