Southern African News Features                                           SANF 12 No 4, February 2012

SADC sets clean energy targets for one-third renewable energy within 10 years

by Kizito Sikuka

Southern Africa will in the next few years experience a gradual increase in the uptake of cleaner energy sources that could result in reduced carbon emissions.

This follows the adoption of a wide range of strategies aimed at aligning the region with new trends in the global energy sector, which now favour renewable energy over fossil fuels.

Renewable energy sources such as solar, hydro and wind are less polluting of the environment, and, unlike fossil fuels such as coal, will not be depleted.

Meeting in Gaborone, Botswana for the 2nd SADC workshop on Renewable Energy Strategy and Action Plan (RESAP), energy experts from the region agreed that southern Africa should increase its uptake of cleaner energy sources to ensure sustainable development.

This is in recognition of global efforts to address climate change and its devastating impact on socio-economic development.

The meeting agreed that the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) must achieve a renewable energy mix in the regional energy grid of at least 32 percent by 2020, which should rise to 35 percent by 2030. SAPP, a 12-member regional body that coordinates the planning, generation and transmission of electricity on behalf of member state utilities in SADC, currently generates about 74 percent of its electricity from thermal stations.

Renewable energy sources, which are in abundance across the region, are not yet considered as major contributors to the regionís electricity needs, save for hydropower that accounts for about 20 percent of SADCís total energy generation.

Southern Africa has tended to focus more on fossil fuels since thermal stations are easier and cheaper to construct compared to hydro and wind plants.

In spite of these challenges, southern Africa is determined to address the situation and achieve a balanced energy mix in the near future.

Member states have already started identifying renewable energy projects that could be commissioned and connected to the regional grid by 2020.

SAPP is set to develop a renewable energy development plan of the priority projects, and link this to the proposed SADC Infrastructure Master Plan.

The master plan, initiated in 2007 and due for launch soon, is expected to guide all regional developments in key infrastructure such as road, rail and ports.

An investorís roundtable will be organized to showcase the renewable energy projects, with a view to attracting investors.

Some of the projects likely to be considered include the Mphanda Nkuwa hydropower project in Mozambique, Itezhi Tezhi hydropower in Zambia, and the massive Inga hydropower project in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Inga project has the potential to produce about 40,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity, more than 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.

Exploitation of these renewables is expected to significantly increase energy accessibility and security of supply to member states.

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