Southern African News Features                                           SANF 11 No 17, June 2011
Renewable energy: The way to go
by Kizito Sikuka

Southern Africa like the rest of the world is slowly turning to renewable energy as the need for cleaner and alternative energy sources gains momentum.

This is also in realization that fossil fuels and other forms of energy such as coal will not last forever, hence the need to prepare for the future.

According to a recent study by the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), the SADC region will continue to require more energy in the future for its developmental needs.

Member State utilities through SAPP have identified a number of priority projects for commissioning over the next few years to address the energy situation in the region.

Most of these projects are targeted at renewable energy sources such as solar, hydro and wind which are less polluting to the environment compared to other forms such as coal thermal.

These projects include the Mphanda Nkuwa hydropower project in Mozambique, Itezhi Tezhi hydropower in Zambia and the Kudu gas project in Namibia.

Other projects are the Medupi/Kusile power projects in South Africa and the Inga hydropower project in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Inga project has the potential to produce about 40,000 Megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to meet the current power needs for the entire SADC region.

The Mphanda Nkuwa power plant has capacity to add about 1,500 MW of new electricity on the regional power grid.

Some of these projects are contenders for carbon financing under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), although not all have qualified due to the complex nature of applying for this funding.

Based on an analysis by SADC, a total of 19,000 MW of generation projects could be commissioned under the CDM in the region.

However, according to available data, southern Africa has benefited the least among all the regions of the continent from the US$7 billion annual CDM market.

South Africa accounts for the majority of the projects followed by the United Republic of Tanzania, DRC, Madagascar, Mauritius and Mozambique.

Some of the leading renewable energy projects in SADC include the wind power project in South Africa. The country plans to commission at least 400 MW of wind power by independent power producers by 2013.

Most of the plants will be located along the West Coast that has the potential to generate about 10,000 MW of electricity. Eskom, the national power utility, believes that the wind revolution in the country has the capacity to generate 10 times the official wind energy estimates.

Namibia has announced plans to build a wind farm at Walvis Bay to generate 300 MW of electricity by year-end.

In Tanzania, there are plans to build a 50 MW wind farm in the central region of the country while Mozambique also plans to invest more in wind energy.

With regard to solar, Botswana plans to build a 200MW solar plant. The plant has the capacity to address a significant portion of the energy needs of the country as its national power consumption needs stand at just about 450MW.

This follows a success story in Madagascar that saw the island nation embarking on a small-scale exercise to harness solar and provide power to the rural population which is not connected to the national electricity grid.

Rural clinics and hospitals were equipped with solar technologies such as small solar panels to produce their own electricity and in the process enabling them to store vital vaccines and other medicines.

While renewable energy projects are yet to be implemented on a large scale in other SADC countries, efforts are underway to explore ways to harness the clean form of energy in line with international standards.

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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