SA electricity demand to hot up

[] — ELECTRICITY demand in South Africa is expected to increase moderately in the next two to three months as the economy starts to show signs of a turnaround, albeit at a slow pace.

Most of the turnaround is expected to come from the manufacturing sector, while the decline in temperatures as the winter season approaches is bound to have an impact on electricity consumption.

Statistical factors, though, aided a slightly better print in March.

Electricity consumption growth recovered to -4.6% year-on-year (y/y) in March after a decline to -10.2% in February.

However, it is still in negative territory. The reason for the slight increase is mainly statistical: while production at electricity intensive manufacturing and mining facilities in March 2008 had been disrupted by the Easter long weekend at the time, Easter was in April this year.

Accordingly, there were additional working days in March this year compared with March last year, which were bound to improve y/y growth calculations.

Month-on-month (m/m) consumption growth rose to 11% from -6.5% in February.

One might suspect that the fewer days in February 2009 and more days in March
2009 versus 2008, may have contributed to the significant improvement in March.

In a similar vein, electricity production growth improved to -6.0% y/y in March, from -11.2% in February. On a m/m basis, electricity production grew 12.2% from -6.9% in February, also tied to the statistical reasons mentioned above.

Electricity imports grew 6.5% m/m in the month, to 1,064 gigawatt-hours.

This was lower than the 1,100 gigawatts that were exported in March, after two
consecutive months of imports exceeding exports.

On a y/y basis, electricity imports grew 32.7% from 12.9% in February.

This growth is still significantly lower than the 72.7% and 73.7% recorded in
December and January respectively.

The volatility in electricity imports makes it difficult to outline any trend, however, one expects that electricity imports will remain high until such time that the new power stations are completed and South Africa has secured its own supply.

Electricity exports growth increased to -3.2% y/y in March, after four months of consecutive decline to -11.1% in February. One suspects that a mild improvement in economic conditions is present in neighbouring countries, contributing to an increased demand for energy.