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South Africa

  • 52,982,000
  • 1,221,037 km2
Flag of South Africa

Key Information on South Africa

Mitigation or even reducing energy demand would provide significant benefits for South Africa. The country has to deal with repeated electricity blackouts due to a growing economy with energy intensive industries in combination with an overstrained, primarily coal-based electricity generation system. With the targets to cope with these infrastructural challenges and to reduce South Africa’s impact on climate change, the South African government revised the National Energy Efficiency Strategy (NEES) to reduce the energy consumption significantly and to foster energy efficiency. South Africa ratified the Kyoto Protocol with aims to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and to shift towards a low carbon economy. The country committed itself to limit the emissions to 34% below the business-as-usual growth trajectory by 2020, and by 42% by 2025.
Especially the buildings sector is a priority in South Africa as it is a major user of energy with significant potentials to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. In new buildings, in the commercial sector 40 to 50% and in the residential sector 30 to 40% of energy could be saved. The aim of the regulators is to support buildings that are better insulated, less prone to air leaks and consequently less reliant on electricity for heating and cooling purposes. Appliances are another relevant cause for a large amount of energy consumption. Therefore - with buildings and appliances - the government put a focus on these two important areas with the general goal to achieve a low carbon economy. Programmes with major relevance to achieve this goal are mandatory energy performance standards for buildings and appliances, appliance labelling schemes, demonstration programmes, energy management system promotions as well as awareness raising campaigns. These measures illustrate that South Africa recognized the relevance of low energy buildings and energy efficient appliances. The efforts to increase energy efficiency have already improved but more still needs to be done, in particular as adequate policies and measures have already been successfully demonstrated in other world regions and could be adapted to South Africa’s situation.

 Buildings Tab  Policy Tab  Appliances Tab
In the Buildings section, you will find an overview of the building sector, information on the bigEE Strategic Approach in South Africa, country specific recommendations, and Good Practice examples from the various regions of South Africa. The Policy section will provide to you an overview and analysis of key policies and programmes the government of South Africa has adopted to promote energy efficiency in buildings and appliances. The Appliances section will illustrate national best available technologies (BAT), non-BAT appliances typically used in South Africa as well as analyses of the potential costs and benefits of energy efficiency improvements.


Total population 52,982,000
Size 1,221,037 km²

General Information

GDP (PPP) (2013) 350.6 billion US-$
GDP (PPP) per capita (2013) 6,617.91 US-$
GDP real growth rate (2013) 3%
World Bank 2014

South Africa has abundant resources of raw materials and has experienced over the last decades an enormous growth in economy driven to a large extent by energy intensive extraction industries. As a consequence, it is nowadays one of the world´s most energy-intensive economies, with more than 94% of electricity produced from coal (OECD/IEA 2013b). The total primary energy supply by source is divided into 70% of coal and coal products, 15% oil and oil products, 10% renewable energy, 3% natural gas and 2% nuclear power. In 2011 the overall energy supply was 141 million tonnes of oil-equivalent, and total final consumption was 71 million tonnes (or 2.7 t per capita) of oil-equivalent in 2010 (BPB 2013, IEA 2013b). For comparison, this is approximately equivalent to one fifth of the energy supply of the entire African continent (OECD/IEA 2013). The state-owned electricity supplier Eskom is the largest provider of energy and generates 95% of electricity used in South Africa (UNEP SBCI 2009). Thereby, the large dependence on coal results in massive emissions of greenhouse gases. With 460 Mio.t CO2 (9,1 t per capita) in 2010, South Africa was the 14th highest emitter of greenhouse gases worldwide (BPB 2013, IEA 2013b). In contrast, with 384,708 millions US-$, it was ranking 28th in the gross domestic product 2012 (World Bank 2013). This demonstrates the high emissions of greenhouse gases at a comparatively lower economic performance. Under projections that assume continued economic growth on a modest but stable path, South Africa would require an estimated 40,000 megawatts of new generation capacity by 2025 (tied to annual growth in GDP of around 3.65% or less according to IEA 2012).
Particularly the industrial sector dominates the overall energy use in South Africa with 36% in 2011 (other sectors: transport 25%; residential 21%; services 6%, agriculture, forestry and fishing 3%; non-specified and non energy use 9%) (see next figure). But energy consumption has increased across all sectors over the past decade. The population of South Africa increased by 36% between 1990 and 2010, while energy use in the building sector grew even by nearly 50% during the same period. Due to the rapid growth in demand, South Africa experienced widespread electricity blackouts in 2008 and also in the following years. At the same time, a large number of households still has no access to electricity at all. In 2012 the electrification rate was estimated to be 73% by the Development Bank of South Africa, with 3.4 million households remaining without electricity.

Share of Total Final Consumption by sector 2011
Source: OECD & IEA 2013

However, as the overall potentials to reduce the energy consumption and to increase energy efficiency in the buildings and appliances sectors are high, there are also good opportunities to tackle the strained situation in the South African energy system.

Technical saving potential from energy-efficient appliances in the residential sector (not including improvement of building shell)
Source: LBNL 2013


  • Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (BPB) (2013): Zahlen und Fakten 3D. Primärenergie-Versorgung in Millionen Tonnen Öläquivalent, Anteile an der weltweiten Gesamtversorgung in Prozent. www.bigee.net/s/3gp497
  • International Energy Agency (IEA) (2012): Energy Technology Perspectives 2012: Pathways to a Clean Energy System, OECD/IEA, Paris.
  • International Energy Agency (IEA) (2013b): Energy Statistics Division 02/2013
  • Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) (2013): Energy Efficiency Country Study: Republic of South Africa. Authors: Stephane de la Rue du Can; Viginie Letschert; Greg Leventis (LBNL); Theo Covary (Unlimited Energy); Professor Xia (University of Pretoria) www.bigee.net/s/fxnjgx
  • Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development/International Energy Agency (OECD/IEA) (2013): Energy Efficiency. Market Report 2013. Paris
  • Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development/International Energy Agency (OECD/IEA) (2013b): Transition to Sustainable Buildings Strategies and Opportunities to 2050. Paris.
  • UNEP SBCI Sustainable Buildings & Climate Initiative (2009): Greenhouse Gas Emission Baselines and Reduction Potentials from Buildings in South Africa. A discussion document www.bigee.net/s/6qjwzm
  • World Bank (2013): World Development Indicators database, 17 December 2013.
  • World Bank (2014): World DataBank. World Development Indicators South Africa.

Climate zones

The Climate Zones Information on South Africa will be available soon!


National partners for South Africa

South Africa - South African National Energy Development Institute
South Africa - South African National Energy Development Institute
South Africa - Unlimited Energy


Building sector
The construction of a new building is an extremely complex process. In each of the three main phases of development, construction, and operation, there are several interlinked steps in the value chain that have to be co-ordinated. This process involves a correspondingly large number of different market actors, the most relevant of which are architects, developers, financiers, builders, contractors, component suppliers, and last but not least investors, building owners, tenants, and individual users. In addition, there are also some actors that are not part of the value chain itself, but nevertheless play important roles in influencing market decisions, such as public authorities, energy agencies, and energy service companies (ESCOs) – to name just a few.
Processes for energy-efficient building refurbishment are quite similar to new build and involve many of the same actors, although they normally exclude the tasks and actors of property development and sale or letting. Such renovation processes and actor constellations are thus almost as complex as those for new buildings. The following figure illustrates the distinctive complexity of the building sector. It shows how the different phases and tasks that form the links of the value chain as well as respective influencing factors interact.

Value chain and influencing factors in the building sector
Source: Wuppertal Institute (2012)

Main actors

Property development - Property development companies
- (Social-)Housing companies
- Investor-occupier
Financing - Banks
- Equity funders
- Insurances
- Property Valuers
Design - Architects
- Engineering consultants
Component supply - Component manufacturers
- Wholesale and retail
Construction - General management companies
- Construction companies and contractors
- Manufacturers of pre-fabricated houses
Installation of systems - System suppliers
- Installation contractors
Sale/letting - Property development companies
- Manufacturers of pre-fabricated houses
- Housing corporations
- Real estate agents
- Landlords/Landladies
- Buyers
- Tenants
Commissioning - Commissioning providers
- Engineering consultants
- Facility managers
Operation/use - Investor-occupiers
- Landlords/Landladies
- Tenants
- Employees
- Customers
- Facility managers

Appliances sector
In each of the main life-cycle phases of an energy-efficient appliance, from development to recycling, there are several interlinked steps in the value chain that have to be co-ordinated. Consequently, this process involves a large number of different market actors like manufacturers, retailers, wholesale companies, investors, and users. As with buildings, there are also some actors that are not part of the value chain for appliances itself, but nevertheless have an important role to play in influencing the decisions of the market actors - for instance: public authorities, energy agencies, research institutes, and interest groups.
The following figure illustrates how the relevant actors in the appliances value chain interact in the different life cycle phases of appliances. The arrows demonstrate the supplier relations. On the right side of the figure, you can see the different actors, which have possibilities to influence the design, manufacturing, sale, or use of the product. Different actors can help to reduce the energy consumption of appliances via the governance framework, research and development activities, energy efficiency advice or other measures.

Actors constellation in the supply chain of appliances
Source: Wuppertal Institute (2012)


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