South Africa is the second-largest energy producer on the African continent, surpassed only by Algeria. Coal is the country's primary energy source and product and accounted for 75% of primary energy consumption in 1998. Since 1980, the Department of Mineral and Energy Affairs has directed energy acquisition and distribution. A national high-voltage grid network was established in the 1970s. Electric generation totaled 196.2 billion kWh in 2000, of which 92.6% was from fossil fuels, 6.7% from nuclear power, and less than 1% each from hydropower and other renewable sources.
South Africa's annual electricity consumption is 181.5 billion kWh (2000). The Electricity Supply Commission (Eskom) generates about 95% of the total, primarily from locally mined coal. Peak electricity demand is provided by the hydro facilities of the Orange River Project and Mozambique's Cahora Bassa dam. Power is generated by coal-fired plants, as well as nuclear power and hydroelectric power. Total installed generating capacity totaled 44.7 GW at the beginning of 2001. An aggressive electrification program was aimed at bringing electric power to2.5 million households over the 1994-2000 period, and was to raise the proportion of households with electricity from 44% to 72%.
In 2000, South Africa was among the world's leading exporters of coal, with estimated production of 247.2 million ton and exports of 77.1 million tons. Proven coal reserves from 19 coal fields totaled 61 billion short tons of anthracite and bituminous coal. About 80% of coal production comes from the Mpumalanga Province, and another 10% from the Northern Province. About 90% of annual production was used for power generation and synthetic fuels. The South African Coal, Oil, and Gas Corporation (SASOL) is the world leader in oil-from-coal technology. SASOL operates two coal gasification plants in Secunda and one in Sasalburg. SASOL has a capacity to produce 150,000 barrels per day, mostly to the gasoline market. South Africa's other leading synthetic fuel producer is Mossgas, with capacity of 45,000 barrels per day. Mossgas develops natural gas condensate deposits at Mossel Bay into synthetic fuel. In March 1992, the project delivered its first sea-to-shore gas to a synthetic fuel plant. The natural gas converted at the plant is converted into gasoline, diesel oil, and kerosene. South Africa has four crude oil refineries whose combined capacity in early 2002 was 468,547 barrels per day, the second largest in Africa. Oil production at the offshore Oribi field began in 1998. Total oil production in 2001 was 224,000 barrels per day.
Ownership of uranium is vested in the Atomic Energy Corporation on behalf of the state. In 1975, a pilot plant for the manufacture of enriched uranium went into operation at Valindaba (Transvaal), and it was extended to a production plant, scheduled to open in 1987. Africa's only nuclear power station, at Koeburg near Cape Town, began operating in 1984. South Africa and the United States are signatories to a 1957 bilateral atomic-power treaty.