Macro-fiscal analysis
Request for research proposal

South Africa’s electricity crisis: macroeconomic, macro sectoral, and fiscal consequences and policy actions required

MAY 2023

Submission deadline: 18 June 2023


United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER), together with its partners, invites research proposals for the second phase of the Southern Africa Towards Inclusive Economic Development (SA-TIED) programme regarding South Africa's energy crisis.

Since 2008, South Africa has been subjected to ‘loadshedding’—a term used to describe planned power cuts intended to limit electricity demand to its constrained supply. However, as the Energy Availability Factor has fallen since 2017, days with loadshedding increased to over 200 in 2022, with loadshedding having deteriorated further in the first four months of 2023 and projected to become even worse over the next 18–24 months. In addition, many of South Africa’s aging coal power stations are scheduled for decommissioning in the next decade, while the failures of Bid Windows 5 and 6 to secure a renewable energy supply has shown that South Africa lacks the transmission capability to transmit power from any newly built renewable power generation facilities in the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape.  

The impact of loadshedding on the economy and its various sectors also holds implications for fiscal policy. Constrained GDP growth results in the constrained growth of tax revenue, which, in turn, further limits the government’s spending envelope. The latter makes budgetary prioritising more difficult, especially if increasing expenditure on public infrastructure is one of the priorities. Fiscal policy is further impacted as limited economic growth results in higher levels of unemployment and poverty and, thus, more pressure to expand social expenditure.

To understand the impact of loadshedding on the economy as a whole, but also its asymmetric impact on economic sectors and companies of various sizes, will require detailed analysis. Such analysis will also assist in understanding which policy instruments can be used to soften the impact. The fiscal impact of constrained economic growth resulting from loadshedding—accompanied by increased pressure to expand government’s social expenditure on the back of a shrinking tax base—also requires detailed analysis. The analysis will also point to the requisite policy steps that will increase electricity supply.  


25 May 2023

Launch a Requests for Research Proposals (RfRP)

18 June 2023

Proposal submission deadline 

10 July 2023

Target date for informing on funding decisions 

15 November 2023

Target date for submission of first drafts of papers

Week of 1 December 2023

Target date for work-in-progress workshop 

15 February 2024

Target date for submission of revised near-final draft papers and a one-page summary of key findings 

Proposal submission procedure 

The proposal should be no more than three pages of A4 paper in length, excluding cover page and references. Please use 12-point font, 1.5 line spacing, and standard margins. The proposal should clearly state the research objectives, study design and methods, data sources, and policy relevance. The cover page should contain the complete contact information of researcher(s), and a 120–150-word abstract summarizing the research question, main method, data, and expected contribution to the policy debate. 

Submission of proposals is done electronically by using the online form on the RfRP announcement page. There are three forms to select from: one for individuals, another for groups of individuals, and a third for non-profit organizations. Details (such as address, gender, nationality, date of birth) of all researchers involved will need to be entered to the form and the cover page, the proposal, and short CVs (five pages or less) of researcher/s uploaded. Please familiarize yourself with the form in advance. 

Submission of a budget is not required for the proposal

Any questions on the proposal process should be sent to by 18 June 2023. All queries and responses will be published on the RFRP announcement page. Selected answers will be updated on a rolling basis.