Monday, March 27, 2023

The African power grid collapse is spreading


Laura Rauch

Last summer, we looked at the collapse of the power grid in South Africa. The country which previously had the most economically stable and prosperous government in sub-Saharan Africa suffered waves of unemployment and looting as its economy buckled under the strain. They’ve managed to put together some foreign aid to apply patchwork fixes since then, but there are still rolling blackouts taking place on a regular basis.

This winter, however, the power grid problems are spreading in one of the more underreported stories of the year. Zimbabwe and Nigeria are now also experiencing near-total collapses of their power grids. People who still have jobs are having to work at night because that’s the only time there is stable electricity. Scheduled blackouts frequently last up to ten or even twelve hours per day, and both nations’ economies are tanking as a result. 

These nations are experiencing unrest, particularly among people who claim that they have continued to pay their utility bills but have no electricity for most of the day. The AP spoke to a couple of residents in Zimbabwe who are food merchants that rely on refrigeration for their products. With no power during the day, the food spoils and they are at risk of losing their livelihoods.

The problems aren’t limited to just these three countries, by the way. 590 million of the 600 million African people who regularly lack access to electricity live in the sub-Saharan region of the country. But even fresh injections of foreign aid have failed to stabilize the situation.

So what do Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and South Africa all have in common? A couple of years ago, Zimbabwe agreed to a UN plan to mandate more renewable energy and move away from coal and natural gas. 

At roughly the same time, Nigeria signed on to the UN Clean Energy Demand Initiative and John Kerry showed up in person when Nigeria’s president signed the mandate. And as we’ve discussed here before, South Africa started its “transition” to renewable energy years ago, dumping $8.5 billion into the plan in a move the New York Times described as a “Breakthrough for the World.” A few years later, people are sitting in the dark with no heat over wide regions of each country. 

But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence, right?

Do you know who isn’t worried about having enough power? China. They’ve been issuing construction permits for an average of two new coal plants per week for the past couple of years. China’s carbon output is more than double that of the United States, where the energy industry has been slashing emissions for years. 

And yet you didn’t hear a peep out of John Kerry and the rest of the climate hecklers who flew their private jets to Davos so they could scold everyone else. China can apparently do what they like because they’re a “developing nation.”

The Chinese are laughing their butts off at us right now. We’re tanking our own power grid and our economy to placate the climate gods. I somehow doubt Beijing is too concerned about potentially getting into a hot war with a country that can’t keep its lights on and gives away all of its missiles to Ukraine. Best of luck, Taiwan. You may need to find a new protector.