With an estimated only 1% of the 9 million population connected to the nation’s electricity power grid (and most of those are in the capital, Juba and the two other main cities of Wau and Malakal), those who are lucky enough to have mains electricity have an infrequent service, regularly experiencing load shedding, prolonged severe voltage brownouts and forced power outages.
The Republic of South Sudan is the world's youngest nation, having been created in July 2011 when it broke away from Sudan.
The Southern Sudan Electricity Corporation, which falls under the Ministry of Energy and Mining, oversees the energy sector, being responsible for the generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity.
According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), South Sudan has the lowest per capita electricity consumption in Africa, with a per capita consumption of between 1 to 3 kWh, compared to an average in the Sub-Saharan African region of 80 kWh.
It is estimated that South Sudan has an installed capacity base of about 20 MW, primarily derived from fossil fuel powered stations. The largest source of power is the oil fired 12 MW Warsila plant in Juba.
Putting a figure on actual demand is difficult, though it is believed to be just over 42 MW and rising (and that is only from those who are able to connect to the grid). With a lack of generation capacity and an aging and poorly maintained infrastructure the power system in the country is totally unable to satisfy current demand.
In an attempt to address the situation the government plans to modernize and expand the distribution infrastructure and in the short term add 20 MW of diesel generated capacity and, in the more medium to long term, look to build a number of hydropower stations on the Nile.
However since December 2013, the ongoing conflict between the South Sudanese Government and opposition has effectively paralyzed the government’s attempt to expand and modernize the country’s electricity distribution network. The 38 MW Fula Rapid Hydro plant, which was scheduled to come online in October 2016, is also likely to be delayed due to the conflict, depriving the country of much needed extra generation capacity.
While the Sudanese government did sign in 2012 a preliminary contract with the Chinese Gezhouba Group to build a 540 MW Dam and Hydro plant on the White Nile at Bedden, 35 km south of Juba, it is estimated that the project will take 7 years to complete and cost US $1.4 billion.
The availability of a reliable universal grid supply is essential for economic growth and the alleviation of poverty. While the South Sudanese government’s desire to modernize and extend on-grid coverage and introduce additional generation capacity is commendable, until such time as a stable political and conflict free environment exists in the country, the current sad state of the nation’s mains utility supply is likely to persist for the foreseeable future.
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