Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 47, December 2009
Full energy recovery by 2013

The southern African region is expected to fully recover from current crippling energy shortages in 2013 when it will enjoy the desired surplus power generation capacity.

However, this would only happen if all short term generation projects are implemented by SADC Member States as per agreed plans, according to the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).

SAPP is a 12-member regional body that coordinates the planning, generation, transmission and marketing of electricity on behalf of Member State utilities in SADC.

The power utilities in mainland SADC Member States, with the exception of Angola, Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania, are interconnected through SAPP, allowing them to sell electricity to one another through a competitive market.

The region has been experiencing power shortages dating as far back as 2006 due to a combination of factors including the diminishing generation surplus capacity against increasing growth in demand. This has resulted in load shedding in most SADC countries.

As a stop gap measure, SAPP has been impressing upon member utilities to implement demand-side management policies that have to some extent succeeded in restraining overall demand in the region. For example, a minus one percent growth in peak demand was recorded in 2008 as compared to 2007.

As of April 2009, SAPP had a total installed capacity of 55,927 Mega Watts (MW) while 48,649MW were available for use by member utilities. And for the actual interconnected SAPP grid, the installed capacity during the same period was 53,445MW with only 46,772MW as the available capacity, leaving a deficit of 6,673MW between the installed and the available capacity.

The mismatch between installed capacity and available capacity arises from several factors including rehabilitation and regular remedial maintenance, as well as fuel supply challenges in some cases.

SADC’s main sources of electricity generation are coal, hydro, nuclear and diesel. In the year 2009, SAPP expected member utilities to commission projects that will add 2,042MW to the regional grid.

The power will come from South Africa’s Eskom, which targeted to commission a total of 1,729MW from six plants. Zimbabwe’s ZESA will weigh in with 100MW from its Hwange Thermal, Angola’s ENE, 83MW from the Lobito Thermal, DRC’s SNEL, 55MW from the rehabilitation of Inga 1, TANESCO of Tanzania, 45MW from Tegeta Gas and Zambia’s ZESCO will add 30MW from Kariba North Hydro rehabilitation.

Last year, a total of 1,442MW were added to the grid against a planned target of 2,014MW.

On the basis of current load forecast, and barring any demand-side management measures, the SADC region is set to continue with the precarious generation deficit until 2013 when the situation should ease, provided planned generation projects are implemented on time.

However, with load management measures such as demand side management, the situation may significantly improve, leading to less need for load shedding from 2009.

Based on global practices, SAPP requires a 10.2 percent reserve margin at any time. This desired reserve margin is required to guarantee system reliability and allow for unexpected surges in demand for power that may occur from time to time.

To achieve sustainable power supply in the short, medium to long term, SAPP has come up with a Pool Plan covering the period 2008 to 2020 based on two scenarios.

One scenario, which is called the Base Case would add more power to the region but relies heavily on more expensive options such coal fired generation. The second scenario or the Alternative Case, is based on least cost whereby high cost coal generation is replaced by low cost options such as hydro and gas generation.

The Alternative Case would add a total of 57,000MW by 2020 at a cost of US$83 billion. This would mean adding 8,400MW less thermal and 5,600MW more hydro than the Base Case while the corresponding total cost would be significantly lower. The Alternative Case does not consider nuclear power generation as an option.

Perhaps most significantly, the pool plan underscores the benefits arising from pursuing projects collectively as a region rather than individual Member States. Going this route would not only result in better coordination and optimization but total cost savings of US$48 billion over the planning horizon.

As such, the plan recommends that current self sufficiency policies of some utilities should be reviewed to encourage regional development and integration.

The plan also urges Member States to accelerate the interconnecting of Malawi and Tanzania to the regional grid. It further advocates for what it calls a central transmission corridor from the DRC to South Africa through Zambia and Zimbabwe to ease congestion and widen options.

While SAPP can recommend least cost and best case scenarios based on its technical expertise, the onus lies with Member State utilities to approach investors and implement identified projects if the region is to meet its energy targets.

SADC Today Southern African News Features offers a reliable source of regional information and analysis on the Southern African Development Community, and is provided as a service to the SADC region.

This article may be reproduced with credit to the author and publisher.

SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985

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