The percentage of households connected to the country's main electricity supply increased to 84.7% in 2018, according to the General Household Survey released by Stats SA on Tuesday.
This is up from 76.7% in 2002. However, the report added, the percentage of households with access to mains electricity actually declined in Gauteng – by 9.5 percentage points – and the Western Cape, by 0.6 percentage points.
Stats SA attributed this to rapid in-migration experienced by these provinces, and the associated increase in households.
Households with access to mains electricity were most common in Limpopo, at 92.7%, the Northern Cape at 91.7%, and the Free State at 91.2%. Electricity access was least common in Kwa-Zulu Natal at 83.5%, North West Province at 83.7% and Gauteng at 77.7%.
Some find it pricey, some get it for free
A total of 2.6% of households countrywide had electricity they did not pay for, the survey noted. This was most common in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal – both at 4.0% - and was slightly more common in metros than the national average.
Increased access to electricity is replacing the use of environmentally unfriendly alternatives, although cost and reliability of energy remains an issue, said Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke in the report overview.
The report further noted a slight decline in satisfaction with electricity services over the past eight years, despite the increase in access. Consumers are also still obliged to use multiple sources of energy due to cost and reliability.
"An increase in the percentage of households that were connected to the electricity supply from the mains […] was accompanied by a decrease in the use of wood over the same period," Maluleke noted. However, he added, the common use of wood in rural provinces indicated that available resources were still cheaper than electricity, increasing the health risks associated with open fires.
Households tended to use the cheapest sources of energy, he said.
"The data also show that households utilise multiple resources for lighting, cooking and heating. This is indicative of the fact that households opted to use the cheapest sources of energy where available, or that they had to rely on alternative sources during interruptions.
"The survey also found that households’ satisfaction with electricity services actually declined between 2010 and 2018 as the percentage of households that rated the service as 'good' decreased marginally from 67.5% to 65.7%," Maluleke commented.
South Africa has faced a spate of load shedding in recent months. Meanwhile, Fin24 previously reported that Eskom tariffs have increased by 300% in the last decade.