South Africa's energy system has been, and still is, one of the key contributing factors to the social and economic development of the nation. By international standards, the South African economy is very energy-intensive, meaning that the country uses a large amount of energy for every rand of economic output. Historically world economic and political factors have had a profound effect on international oil prices which in turn have impacted heavily on individual nation's energy policies.
The focus of this research centres on issues concerning industrial energy use. The theoretical background to this research is well grounded in traditional trade theory, with trade patterns and the international competitiveness of countries explained as a function of both supply and demand side factors. The empirical work undertaken seeks to verify such explanations by determining the extent to which changes in the energy intensity of the South African manufacturing sector are due to changes in the types of goods produced domestically versus changes in the types of goods internationally traded.