The South African energy debate is and will remain a heated one. Given South Africa's history of racial inequality and contemporary concerns around sustainability, much of it rightly focuses on the links between energy, poverty and the environment. Yet, many contributions to the (mainstream) debate seem to have a somewhat one-sided focus that might hamper rather than stimulate the understanding of these links. They either display a strong technical, quantitative bias and/or lean towards rather simplistic ideas about policy processes and dynamics. The article argues that many of these analyses could benefit greatly from a critical focus on the political economy of energy: the political-economic power structures that influence both many energy policies and the issues of energy equality and sustainability. Two major global developments emphasise the importance of this focus: the recent financial crisis and South Africa's role in the increasingly tense geopolitics of energy in Africa. The article concludes with some suggestions on how currently disparate political economies of energy could be better connected.
- Political economy
- South Africa