By Timo Shihepo
Windhoek – The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is racing against time to install new energy projects needed to generate 35 000 MW in order to avoid a huge power deficit by 2022.
SADC has 58 000 MW installed generation capacity but at the moment the region is only producing 47 000 MW. The region’s demand currently stands at about 53 000 MW which means there is a supply deficit of 6000 MW.
It has been over 10 years now that SADC has been operating with a generation supply deficit. Most of the countries in SADC rely on hydropower. The danger with relying on hydropower in southern Africa is that the region is prone to droughts and this affects the generation capacity at these power stations.
For example until recently, Zambia relied on 99 percent hydropower. About 80 percent of Namibia’s internally produced power is from the Ruacana hydropower station. Zimbabwe also relies heavily on power from the Kariba dam project.
With the region experiencing droughts almost every year and failure to invest in many renewable energy projects, this deficit is projected to increase every year.
With the industrial productivity steadily increasing, the World Bank also anticipates the demand for electricity in the region to increase by 40 percent over the next 10 years.
It was because of this that the ministers responsible for energy in the region took a common decision to initiate development of new generation projects in the region that would bring about 35 000 MW by 2022.
The southern Africa region had initially pinned its hopes on the 44 000 MW Grand Inga hydropower dam project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but delays caused by lack of financing means the project will not be producing power by 2020 but rather as from 2024. The World Bank also suspended its funding after the presidency in that country took control over the project.
Some of the projects that are now earmarked for 2022 include the 800 MW Kudu gas to power station in Namibia at a cost of US$1.2 billion. Another project is the Batoka Gorge project worth US$4 billion by Zambia and Zimbabwe, which is estimated to produce 2400 MW.
The expansion of Hwange Power Station’s units 7 and 8 in Zimbabwe are expected to add a combined 600 MW. The 300 MW Kariba South expansion in Zimbabwe at a cost US$508 million is 80 percent complete and the first unit is expected to release power into the national grid by the end of the year.
Other projects have also been mooted but are yet to get off the ground. The Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) is also banking on the hopes of new members to join so that they can add more megawatts to the regional grid. The SAPP is looking at adding Angola, Malawi and Tanzania because the latter has so much energy potential.
Tanzania is on a drive to end power shortages in the country with many new plants earmarked to be gas-fired. Last year, Tanzania initiated a $1.33 billion project to pipe natural gas to its capital, Dar es Salaam.
The 532 km (330 mile) Mtwara-Dar es Salaam pipeline and gas processing plants, largely financed by a Chinese loan, is part of a plan to add about 2,000 megawatts of new gas-fired electricity generating power by 2018 to increase Tanzania’s generating capacity to 10,000 MW by 2025.
The expanding capacity will help meet domestic demand as the government connects more people to the national grid beyond the 40 percent who are connected now.
Energy ministers in the region told The Southern Times that although several efforts are being made, the region is racing against time because the implementation process is very slow.
Zimbabwe’s Minister of Energy and Power Development, Dr Samuel Undenge, acknowledged that several projects in the region have been identified with the aim of producing over 30 000 MW by 2022 but said the region has been slow in commissioning new projects.
Undenge said that the establishment of the SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (Sacree) in Namibia in 2016 was testimony that the region was serious about ending the deficit. He said he hoped that this centre would help speed up the process of commissioning these projects.
Zambia’s Energy and Water Development Minister David Mabumba told The Southern Times that SADC had a very good organisation and plans for the energy sector but that most of these plans had not achieved their mandates.
He said the region had to do something because almost all countries in SADC had the same power problems. He felt that the region had to invest in different kinds of power generating projects.
“There are really hard times when for example, Zambia is in desperate need of power but when you ask, the SAPP would not supply you. We need to expand. We need to invest in many energy projects especially the renewable sector,” he said.
The Namibian Minister of Mines and Energy, Obeth Kandjoze, also said the pace of commissioning new projects was still slow, but the electricity deficit would be overcome by 2021/22.
“We recognize that there are still a lot of transmission constraints that are affecting electricity trading among the SADC member states. Funds need to be channelled to the development of the transmission projects to unlock these bottlenecks.”
Over US$66 million of energy was traded in 2015/16. Although Kandjoze noted that this was quite significant, he said there was a need to see the trading surpass these levels.
“The electricity trading that is taking place on the SAPP Competitive Market is complementing to meet demand from own generation resources in most countries. This platform is assisting member states to have an option to buy from the market,” he said.
Kandjoze reaffirmed that Namibia was very committed to contributing to energy sector developments in SADC. He gave the hosting of the Sacree in Namibia as an example.
According to the SADC communication department, in order to capitalise on the region’s potential for electricity generation, SADC encourages investment in the region’s electricity infrastructure, especially in electricity plants, transmission lines, coal depots, and nuclear demonstration plants.
SADC aims to develop the region’s renewable energy resources, with plans for more hydropower plants underway in Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, and along the Zambezi River. As well, two transmission lines – the North-South Power Transmission Corridor and the Central African Interconnection – are under development.
“This new infrastructure, however, requires new training and capacity building. In order to make real gains in the energy sector, locals must be capable of operating and maintaining these infrastructure projects once they are constructed and must be available to do so.”
Access to Energy
The SADC communications department further says, along with industrial productivity, electricity generation can assist in SADC’s mandate of poverty eradication across southern Africa.
At present, only 5% of rural areas in southern Africa have access to electricity, which inhibits their ability to control sanitation, clean water, and food.
In 2010, SADC passed the Regional Energy Access Strategy and Action Plan, which aims to combine regional energy resources as a means of ensuring the entire SADC region has access to affordable, sustainable electricity.
The plan’s goal is to within ten years reduce by half the number of people in the region without access to energy, and then halving it again every five years until the region has universal access.