The head of South Africa’s Tourism Services Association warned that due to continuing power problems in South Africa, the country may face serious problems hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup:

South Africa’s energy crisis raises serious questions about its ability to successfully host the 2010 World Cup, the head of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) said Wednesday, following days of crippling power outages. South Africa is suffering acute energy shortages, resulting in countrywide power cuts lasting several hours at a time as state electricity provider Eskom tries to cover demand.

“Stadia may have all the most wonderful generators in the world to broadcast the games, but will people come to South Africa to see them if they know that they will be going back to hotels and guest houses with no power?” SATSA CEO Michael Tatalias asked.

No power meant “no hot meals, no clean laundry, no lights,” Tatalias said.

Even if football fans were prepared to brave the threat of blackouts, which state electricity supplier Eskom has warned could continue for another five years, they face difficulties getting to games on time if street lights are out, SATSA warned.

“We have to ask ourselves honestly if we can still do this,” Tatalias urged.

Apparently the power situation in South Africa is severe with regular ‘load shedding’ which is costing businesses millions and also threatens to delay World Cup construction. Traffic congestion has gotten so bad due to traffic lights going out when the power does, the state owned power company is installing solar powered traffic lights at 2,000 of the county’s busiest intersections. Other large scale alternative energy programs are also being investigated. Key projects are already being impacted, as are tourists and other sporting events.

This is an interesting situation. You’d expect the head of South Africa’s Tourism trade group to put the best spin on the load shedding that he could. Instead he is waving red flags. All this time people worried about the communications infrastructure and ability to complete the Stadia. Instead, the power grid may not be able to keep construction schedules on time, and even if they aren’t impacted, the effects on World Cup attendees could be substantial.

This definitely bears watching. FIFA continues to rave about South Africa’s progress, noting they are farther along than Germany was at this point. But multiple experts note that the power problems are not fixable in the short term, so there could be load shedding and blackouts in 2010 due to the slow rate of new capacity coming online.

HatTip The Oil Drum