SADC energy ministers address power situation in the region

by Kizito Sikuka in Johannesburg, South Africa – SANF 15 no 33
Electricity is a common challenge. Whether one is in a posh hotel in Johannesburg or a high-density suburb in Harare, Windhoek, or any other city in southern Africa, one thing is almost certain to happen – a power cut.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been facing challenges in meeting energy requirements for more than a decade due to growth in demand, forcing most countries to implement Demand Side Management (DSM) 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 since the availability of energy is one of the key enablers of sustainable development, and is essential to the industrialization agenda.

So the question is, what is SADC doing to address this common challenge and ensure that the region has enough energy to power its development?

“We have put in place a variety of measures to address the energy situation in the region,” Moses Ntlamelle, Senior Programme Officer responsible for Energy at the SADC Secretariat said on the sidelines of the SADC Energy Ministers Meeting underway in Johannesburg.

One such measure is to speed up the implementation of various energy generation projects as well as the rehabilitation of power stations in the region.

For example, this year alone, SADC plans to commission a total of 2,763 megawatts (MW) of new electricity to the regional grid.

By 2019, the region aims to have commissioned a massive 24,062MW, allowing SADC to fully recover from the energy crisis.

Another strategy is to increase the uptake of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydro, which are in abundance in southern Africa.

The SADC region is blessed with huge watercourses including 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 Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).

However, the levels of renewable energy penetration and use across the region still remain low, and to support market expansion in renewable energy, SADC has developed a comprehensive plan on how the region could fully harness its renewable energy potential.

According to a draft agenda of the SADC Energy Ministers, the region is expected to make a landmark decision to establish a SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE).

The centre would, among other things, spearhead the promotion of renewable energy development in the region.

SACREEE is also expected to contribute substantially to the development of thriving regional renewable energy and energy efficiency markets through knowledge-sharing and technical advice in the areas of policy and regulation, technology cooperation, capacity development as well as investment promotion.

At least four countries – Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe – are vying for the right to host the proposed regional centre for the promotion of renewable energy in southern Africa.

A decision on the host nation will be made at the close of SADC Energy Ministers meeting, but indications are that the centre will be based in Namibia.

An increase in the uptake of renewables will allow the region to achieve a renewable energy mix of at least 32 percent by 2020, which should rise to 35 percent by 2030. Currently, SADC generates about 74 percent of its electricity from thermal stations.

In addition to these measures to address the diminished power surplus, SADC is implementing a number of DSM programmes could effectively allow the region to address its energy challenges in the short term, while mobilizing resources to develop new power generation projects that will add more energy on the regional grid.

The DSM programme includes the phasing out of incandescent light bulbs, and replacing them with compact fluorescent lamps and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), as well as the installation of solar water heaters.

Research shows that residential lighting accounts for about 20 percent of the average domestic electricity bill in the SADC region.

Switching from traditional light bulbs to compact fluorescent lamps has been effective in most SADC countries as they have significantly reduced energy use at home and prevented greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

Compact fluorescent lamps have been shown to save up to 80 percent of the electricity consumption, compared to incandescent bulbs.

Between 2010 and 2014, at about 4,561MW savings were achieved from DSM initiatives in the region, according to SADC.

It is envisaged that the SADC region will save more than 6,000MW by 2018 if such initiatives are implemented according to plan.

Another critical initiative to ease energy shortages in the region is to interconnect all countries to the regional SAPP power grid.

All mainland SADC countries, with the exception of Angola, Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania, are interconnected to the SAPP power grid, which allows countries to share surplus.

SADC is also reviewing various policies to attract investment in the energy sector. These include the draft SADC Regional Energy Strategy and Plan of Action (RESAP), which is being deliberated by the SADC Energy Ministers meeting underway in South Africa.

The 34thSADC Energy Ministers is being held from 21-24 July. The last meeting was held in 2013 in Maseru, Lesotho.

The 2014 meeting was originally scheduled for Malawi in May of that year but was postponed to allow the country to prepare for its general elections.

The decisions of the energy ministers will be forwarded to the SADC Council of Ministers for final approval at their next meeting ahead of the 2015 SADC Heads of State and Government Summit set for Gaborone, Botswana in August.

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.      Email:     

Website and Virtual Library for Southern Africa  Knowledge for Development