SADC moves to stop power outages


Gaborone – The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is moving swiftly to ensure that power blackouts in some member states become history if the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) plan to resolve the power cuts is implemented according to agreed timelines.

The SADC programme officer responsible for power, Odala Matupa, has said that the SAPP was considering reviewing the pool plan, which was made in 1996.

The Southern African Power Pool was created with the primary aim to provide reliable and economical electricity supply to the consumers of each of the SAPP members, consistent with the reasonable utilisation of natural resources and the effect on the environment.

Addressing the Press in Gaborone, Botswana, recently, Matupa said in order to fast-track implementation, energy ministers have approved priority power projects regarding power generation and transmission, which was identified from the original pool plan of 2009 using agreed criteria.

He was quoted as saying that for the short-term, member states continued to rehabilitate and refurbish power plants, and mothballing those that were not needed due to excess capacity in the past, especially in South Africa.

Matupa said member states have committed to generate power from 2014 to 2017. 

Botswana has committed to generate 150MW for the whole period, South Africa would generate 4 214MW in 2014, 2 527MW in 2015, 3 717MW in 2016 and 1 918MW in 2017 making a total of 12 376MW.

SAPP aims to provide a forum for the development of a world class, robust, safe, efficient, reliable and stable interconnected electrical system in the southern African region, co-ordinate and enforce common regional standards of quality of supply; measurement and monitoring of systems performance.

Its objective is also to harmonise relationships between member utilities, facilitate the development of regional expertise through training programmes and research and increase power accessibility in rural communities as well as implement strategies in support of sustainable development priorities.

Zambia and Tanzania would generate 1 096 and 1 600 MW, respectively, while the Democratic Republic of Congo would generate 820MW, Mozambique 515MW and Angola 3 721MW, while Swaziland would not be carrying out any projects for that period.

Matupa said the capacities and dates of commissioning were not cast in stone and may change for a number of reasons.

He said there was a need for reforms in the power sector with a view to providing a conducive environment for investment, which includes setting up electricity regulators.

Currently, 12 out of the 15 SADC countries have regulators, but Botswana is yet to set up one. 

The regulators allow independent power producers and generators to migrate towards cost-reflective tariffs as most utilities in the region sell electricity below cost of production.

Matupa said governments should find means of implementing pro-poor tariffs and financing rural electrification projects to ensure that the utility continues to be financially viable.

Regarding geo-political differences and economic disparities, he said that was what should facilitate electricity trading among member states as some have the economic muscle and credibility to implement projects and commit as off-takers of other regional projects.

He said in some cases, countries with hydro- and other renewable energy potential may export their power to coal-based generation countries to mitigate effects of climate change.

Matupa noted that the very existence of SADC was prompted by the need to promote regional integration in view of the geo-political differences and economic disparities existing amongst member states.

The protocol aims to improve integration in the energy sector and SAPP does that specifically in the power sub-sector, he added. 

He said the setting up of the SAPP in 1996 and its competitive markets, Short Term Energy Market (STEM) from 2001 and later the Day Ahead Market (DAM) from 2009 was a clear sign of commitment from member states.

Matupa said the establishment of the Regional Electricity Regulators Association in 2002 was to come up with a body that would facilitate electricity regulatory capacity building amongst members at both national and regional level through information sharing and skills training.

He said the association would also facilitate harmonised ESI policy, legislation and regulations for cross-border trading, focusing on issues concerning access to transmission capacity and cross-border tariffs.

On alternative sources of energy, Matupa said renewable energy could contribute to over 60 percent of power generation capacity in SADC. He said preliminary technical potential for electricity production from renewable energy was estimated at around 37 300 terawatts per year (Tw/year), and the largest contribution was coming from hydro, solar energy and wind.

He said that was over 80 times more than the estimated electricity demand, which stands at 450 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year for 2030 and many countries in the region were developing renewable energy with plans to integrate into the grid and that South Africa was a step ahead in this regard.

Matupa said about 10 percent of the generation capacity of 1 361MW in the region was from solar energy in South Africa and the region out of which 32 percent to install 6 141MW in 2014 would be from solar energy again in South Africa. He said only four countries in the region were self-sufficient.

Angola, Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania and that effectively it was only Mozambique which largely exports to the region the bulk of which flows to South Africa, while Angola and Tanzania were not connected to the regional grid.

April 2014
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