Realigning the regional energy agenda …as SADC reviews Protocol on Energy

SANF 19 no 18 – by Kizito Sikuka
The provision of reliable and sustainable energy continues to be a priority for southern Africa’s development agenda.

Recognising the fundamental role of energy in achieving its aspirations for sustainable development and poverty eradication, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has developed a number of legal and instrumental tools such as the Protocol on Energy, which provides a basis for cooperation on energy issues among its Member States.

While most of these documents offer a strong legal framework to develop the energy sector, a major concern raised by energy experts at various fora is that the documents are now outdated and need to be revised to reflect the changing dynamics in the region and continent as well as globally.

Furthermore, most of the documents have obligations that are neither legally binding nor obligatory, making them difficult to enforce and implement.

In light of these shortcomings, SADC is reviewing the Protocol on Energy to ensure that the targets contained in the regional energy blueprint are more manageable and practical.

The Protocol, which was signed in 1996 and entered into force in 1998 aims to promote the harmonious development of national energy policies and matters of common interest for the balanced and equitable development of energy throughout the region.

The Protocol also clearly outlines the institutional mechanisms and financial provisions in place for implementing the Protocol.

Meeting at their annual meeting in Windhoek, Namibia on 24 May, SADC Energy Ministers said the review process of the Protocol is progressing well, and will be completed soon.

“Ministers  noted  progress  made  in  the  amendment  of  the  Protocol  on Energy  of  1996  and  approved the Roadmap to finalize the  review  and amendment of the Protocol, and urged Member States who have not yet acceded to the Protocol to do so,” reads part of a statement released by the ministers soon after their meeting.

As of August 2018, before the admission of the Union of Comoros as the newest member of SADC, all SADC countries with the exceptions of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Seychelles had ratified the Protocol on Energy.

One of the major focus areas of the Protocol is to promote energy pooling among SADC countries to allow member states to share surplus energy.

The Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) is thus making strides in ensuring that the power grids of all its 12 member states are interconnected to allow utilities in these countries to trade in electricity.

All mainland SADC countries, with the exception of Angola, Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania are interconnected to the regional grid through SAPP, allowing them to trade in electricity.

The island states of Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles are not members of SAPP.

SAPP has since embarked on 10 transmission projects aimed at ensuring that all its members are interconnected by 2020 and that the regional grid is strengthened to facilitate greater power trading by 2024.

Priority power transmission projects include the construction of the ZiZaBoNa Interconnector Project linking Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia, as well as the establishment of the Angola-Namibia interconnector that will connect the former to SAPP.

The Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya Interconnector will connect Tanzania to the regional grid as well as improve regional integration and energy trade within and between the SAPP and East African Power Pool.

At their meeting in Namibia, the SADC Energy Ministers urged SAPP, which coordinates the management of electricity in the region to speed up the implementation of various energy activities, programmes and projects to ensure that supply meets demand.

According to the SADC Secretariat, the region has in terms of supply and demand for electricity a current installed generation capacity of 71,950 Megawatts (MW) of electricity, therefore, in regard to the current peak demand and generation capacity reserve margins, the region has a deficit capacity of more than 650 MW.

“Ministers urged Member States to commit to the Regional Priority Power Projects aimed at enhancing security of energy supply and directed the Secretariat to present a comprehensive report on energy projects that are under preparation and development by regional project preparation facilities.”

On the promotion of renewable energy as an alternative source of energy, the ministers approved the SADC Industrial Energy Efficiency Programme (SIEEP) as a programme to promote energy efficiency and energy conservation practices at the SADC industrial sector.

The SIEEP was developed by the SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE) in 2018 to support the region to attain industrial competitiveness through addressing barriers to energy efficiency in industry such as lack of capacity and finance.

SACREEE is one of the regional energy institutions tasked with spearheading the promotion of renewable energy development in the region.

Based in Namibia, SACREEE is responsible for the implementation of the SADC Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Strategy and Action Plan (REEESAP), which was approved in 2016.

The REEESAP, which spans the period 2016-2030, provides the framework for SADC member states to develop renewable energy strategies, leading to the greater uptake of renewable energy resources as well as mobilization of financial resources in the sector.

The Energy Ministers also directed the SADC Secretariat, assisted by the Regional Energy Regulatory Association of Southern Africa (RERA), to establish appropriate structures to develop and implement regional regulatory initiatives pertaining to other energy sub-sectors namely petroleum and gas under its expanded mandate.

Southern Africa has some of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world, hence exploration of gas would enable the region to address its energy challenges.

SADC has already approved plans to develop a regional master plan that will guide the exploitation of the vast natural gas resources that exist in the region.

The approval was made by the SADC Council of Ministers that met ahead of the 38th SADC Summit in August 2018.

Council directed the SADC Secretariat to operationalize the SADC Regional Gas Committee, and to develop the SADC Regional Gas Master Plan.

The SADC Energy Ministers, who met on 24 May also had a joint meeting with their Water counterparts to review progress in the implementation of energy and water programmes and projects in the region.

Forging practical and sustainable solutions towards addressing the energy and water challenges in the region is critical towards advancing integration in SADC as well as ensuring that the management of water development does not undermine energy issues or vice versa because uncoordinated action in one area impacts on the other.

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