11 June 2013 – Southern Africa can achieve universal access to modern energy services if the region harnesses its renewable energy resources, according to the 33rd Southern African Development Community (SADC) energy ministers meeting that took place in Maseru, Lesotho. This is as reported by Kizito Sikuka.
The meeting concluded that the development of a renewable energy strategy will, among other things, ensure that the SADC is able to effectively manage and exploit the natural resources that are abundant in the region.
As such, member states were urged to speed up the process of finalising the SADC Renewable Energy Strategy and Action Plan (RESAP) that was mooted a few years ago. The development of the RESAP was initiated by the SADC secretariat in close cooperation with the government of Finland. Its main aim is to explore options to increase the use of renewable energy in southern Africa, and to ensure that the region’s energy strategy is in line with the global trends towards clean and alternative energy sources.
SADC has an abundance of renewable energy sources, which if fully harnessed, will see the region being able to meet most its energy needs. For example, the overall hydropower potential in SADC countries is estimated at about 1,080 TWh/year but capacity being utilised at present is just under 31 TWh/year.
With regard to geothermal, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility estimate that about 4,000 MW of electricity is available along the Rift Valley in the countries of Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique.
The Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) expects to achieve a renewable energy mix in the regional energy grid of at least 32% of the total energy produced by 2020, which should rise to 35% by 2030.
Presently, southern Africa generates about 74% of its electricity from coal-powered stations. Save for hydropower that accounts for about 20% of SADC’s total energy generation, other renewables such as wind and solar are not considered as major contributors to the region’s electricity needs.
The SADC energy ministers also urged member states and the secretariat to complete a feasibility study of establishing a centre of excellence for renewable energy and energy efficiency in the region. The proposed centre would, among other things, spearhead the promotion of renewable energy development in the region.
The ministers resolved to fast track implementation of all interconnector and regional transmission projects to relieve congestion on the regional grid to facilitate electricity trading. These projects include the Zimbabwe-Zambia-Botswana-Namibia (ZiZaBoNa) transmission project, and the Mozambique/Malawi interconnector. Others are the Zambia/Tanzania/Kenya and the Namibia/Angola interconnectors.
The ministers noted that a total of 11 of the 15 SADC countries had introduced regulatory bodies in the form of energy or electricity regulatory agencies while the remaining member states are at different stages of the process.
The meeting also hailed the approval of the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP), saying it will help attract key investment in the energy sector, which has been identified as one of the six priority areas of the plan. The energy sector plan seeks to address four key energy security areas, namely improving access to modern energy services, tapping the abundant energy resources, up-scaling financial investment and enhancing environmental sustainability.