Member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) plan to commission new power projects that will add 3059 megawatts of electricity this year as the region targets to ensure that it meets its energy needs by 2020. According to the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), which coordinates the planning, generation and transmission of electricity on behalf of member state utilities, the majority of the new power this year is expected to come from South Africa. At least three power generation projects with a combined output of 1624MW will be commissioned in South Africa. Another significant contribution is expected to come from Zambia, which is due to add 300 MW. Angola, which is yet to be linked to the regional grid, will contribute 780 MW. Of the new energy generation projects planned for commissioning this year, only 2269 MW will be added to the regional grid since SADC is not yet fully integrated in terms of energy trading.
All mainland SADC countries, with the exception of Angola, Malawi andTanzania, are interconnected through the SAPP regional grid, allowing them to share surplus energy. New generation capacity installed in any of the three non-participating countries is not accessible to the nine other members of SAPP – Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Gas is expected to contribute the largest share of the new generation capacity in the region in 2016, with five projects – three from Mozambique and two from South Africa – expected to add 1410 MW by the end of year. Unlike in previous years where coal-fired plants contributed the largest share of new generation capacity, 2016 will witness only two new coal projects coming on board with a combined capacity of 390MW, which translates to 12.74%.
The move towards renewable energy follows a resolution made in 2012 by southern African countries to increase the uptake of cleaner and alternative energy sources that result in reduced carbon emission that increase climate warming and cause environmental damage. In addition to being affordable, secure and reliable, renewable energy such as hydro, solar and wind will not be depleted and are also in abundance in the SADC region.
The long-term target set by SADC is to achieve a renewable energy mix in the regional grid of at least 32% by 2020 and 35% by 2030. According to the African Development Bank, southern African alone has the potential to become a “gold mine” for renewable energy due to the abundant solar and wind resources that are now hugely sought after by international investors in their quest for clean energy. The SADC region is also hugely endowed with watercourses such as the Congo and Zambezi, with the Inga Dam situated on the Congo River having the potential to produce about 40,000MW of electricity, according to the SAPP. With regard to geothermal, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Environment Facility estimate that about 4000MW of electricity is available along the Rift Valley in Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique. Of the new energy generation projects planned for commissioning this year, a major share of it will come from Independent Power Producers (IPPs) who are expected to contribute about 71% of new generation.
For example, new power projects to be commissioned in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zambia will be produced by IPPs. This is a huge stride compared to last year when IPPs, all from South Africa where responsible for only 29.83% of new generation capacity. According to the SAPP, southern Africa plans to commission 21,793 MW of new power between 2016 and 2020. This development is expected to allow the region to attain its energy needs. SADC has been experiencing energy shortfalls for more than a decade due to growth in demand, forcing most countries to implement demand side management programmes such as load shedding. While load shedding has succeeded in restraining the overall electricity demand in the region to some extent, the measure has also affected socio-economic growth, hence the need to boost power generation capacity. To ensure all SADC countries share and benefit from increased generation capacity across borders, the region is also intensifying efforts to construct new transmission lines so that full integration is achieved.