Load shedding is costing South Africa’s universities millions – this is how much they spend every day

 ·16 Mar 2023

South Africa’s tertiary education institutions are facing the same effects of load shedding as businesses and households alike across the country – an ever-increasing bill to keep the lights on.

Large universities have to fork out millions every day to ensure that lectures and facilities remain up and running.

In a recent parliamentary Q&A, the department of higher education, science and innovation was asked how much universities spend on diesel for generators each time the country experiences load shedding.

The minister reported that the University of Pretoria spent the most on diesel at R2.2 million a month when the country was at Stage 6.

The University of Johannesburg spends the second highest amount during Stage 6 at around R890,000 per day, while the North-West University spends R492,000.

Unfortunately, despite governments’ slew of interventions, rolling blackouts are not expected to slow down anytime soon.

The country’s economic growth prospects have been declining, and businesses are increasingly relying on alternative energy sources such as diesel generators, solar panels, or inverters to cope with power outages.

Universities are not the only businesses facing dire consequences; major retailers, including Shoprite and Pick n Pay, are among the hardest hit, with Shoprite spending R3 million a day and Pick n Pay spending an extra R60 million each month on diesel generators to survive power cuts.

The embattled power utility Eskom has just eased load shedding to Stage 3, citing small improvements in generation capacity earlier this week; however, lower stages have become few and far between, with analysts and researchers pointing to further fluctuations.

The country has faced load shedding every day this year so far, with some of its higher stages being more common, averaging around Stage 4. South Africa also saw its longest period of Stage 6 load shedding on record.

The table below shows how much each university is forking out for diesel each month:

University/ Institution Stage 3 Stage 4 Stage 5 Stage 6
1 University of Pretoria R1 200 933 R1 501 167 R1 801 400 R2 201 711
2 University of Johannesburg R178 494 R535 483 R712 978 R892 473
3 North-West University R196 800 R295 200 R392 600 R492 000
4 Stellenbosch University R194 221 R234 576 R288 473 R342 739
5 University of Cape Town R98 510 R131 346 R164 183 R197 019
6 Nelson Mandela University R75 600 R100 800 R108 360 R115 920
7 Cape Peninsula University of Technology R30 500 R44 650 R56 400 R82 250
8 University of the Western Cape R21 871 R33 333 R41 667 R49 911
9 Tshwane University of Technology R26 250 R39 375 R42 000 R42 000
10 University of the Free State R7 747 R15 494 R20 659 R25 824
11 Durban University of Technology R5 870 R7 044 R11 741 R16 437
12 Sol Plaatjie University R3 880 R7 276 R7 276 R8 731
13 Sefako Makgatho University R1 233 R1 513 R2 104 R2 603

According to the department, it is difficult to determine the exact figures Rhodes University spends to mitigate load shedding at each stage. Over 2022 however, the total amount spent on diesel reached R3,146,410.

The Central University of Technology spends around R39,285 per week for both campuses – this is, however, a conservative number.

Estimations show that the Mangosuthu University of Technology spends approximately R123,026 per month on diesel.

The department noted that the University of South Africa (UNISA) does not keep track of expenditure per stage of load shedding, and it has been unable to track expenditure.

Read: Eskom eases load shedding to stage 3 until further notice

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