This paper investigates the details behind aggregate shifts in household electricity access in South Africa. More specifically, when viewed from a cross-sectional perspective, we note a significant (and surprising) decline in electricity access between 2008 and 2010, followed by a substantial improvement in access between 2010 and 2012. In order to further investigate these interesting dynamics and move beyond a limited cross-sectional analysis, we then set up the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) in a novel form that allows one to track household units in a longitudinal fashion. Using this data, we identify the initial drop in electricity access to have come as a result of a large number of household disconnections, as well as a significant degree of “misdirected” household formation (with people leaving household with access and setting up households in locations without access). We also identify the subsequent improvement in aggregate access to have come primarily as a result of a significant fall in the number of households that lose access over the period, an increase in the number of households that gain access, and favourable household formation processes (with people leaving households without access and moving into households with access). It is therefore vital that those involved in coordinating service delivery take into account that, if one’s aim is to improve aggregate electricity access, preventing loss of access is just as important as expanding access. Policy makers should also take note of household formation and dissolution processes when considering service delivery expansion – to prevent government from needlessly chasing a moving target.