By Timo Shihepo
EZULWINI – The Southern African region has identified challenges that are hindering the implementation of energy projects in the region and has come up with recommendations to tackle these energy barriers.
Statistics have revealed that access to electricity in some SADC member states is below 20 percent and approximately 190 million people in the SADC region live without electricity.
The current short-term forecast compels the region to increase generation capacity by average of 5,000 MW on annual basis until 2020, in order to maintain the desired reserves.
The challenges and recommendations were identified during the high level SADC ministerial resource mobilisation workshop and energy investor forum at the just ended SADC energy and water summit in Swaziland.
A major challenge identified is the continuing challenge in mobilising financing for regional generation and transmission investments due to investor perceived higher risk for cross border projects in part because of different process and regulations in various SADC countries.
Another challenge is the capacity constraints in national and regional organisations. Inconsistencies in policies inadequacies in the regulatory frameworks and delays in approvals, licensing and permitting arrangements, are also another challenge.
Abundant energy resources but with precarious electricity supply situation in the most of the SADC member states has also been identified.
Also the balance between the strong industrialisation agenda to develop competitive economies and a need for to have widespread access to reliable power supply at an affordable cost, while still remaining financially, environmentally and socially sustainable.
Furthermore, there is a lack of a coherent regional integrated plan and strategy that balance national and regional need while taking into account other regional plans. This is also coupled by lack of effective monitoring mechanism regional commitments.
SADC executive secretary, Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax said the region has abundant supply of solar, hydropower, wind and geothermal potential, as well as significant amounts of natural gas and in some countries coal deposits that needs to be unlocked.
She said the region therefore has to move quickly to unlock the energy potential in order to accelerate the drive towards the goals of regional integration, through among others, a reliable base load power to drive industrial growth and thus economic prosperity and poverty eradication.
“For this to happen, the region has to take advantage and effectively develop and utilise the abundant sources of energy through the emerging technologies and alternative business models that will facilitate investments in this critical socio-economic sector,” she said.
Some of the recommendations that emanated from the Summit calls for countries to follow up on pending issues of a number of regional water and energy projects.
To utilise the available funding and financial instruments by various financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Africa development bank.
The region should also develop a coherent integrated plans and strategies that take into account national and regional needs and robust monitoring mechanisms.
The region must map all activities, challenges in a coherent manner and all available financial instruments and convene a regional meeting to forge the way forward.
There must be also the improvement of interconnection and power trade to increase reliability of supply.
Developing guidelines and frameworks to facilitate the planning process has also been recommended.
The region must also fast-track the operationalisation of the SADC regional development fund that will have a dedicated regional infrastructure support window to reduce demand for sovereign or government guarantees.
Identify policy inconsistencies at a national and regional levels and weaknesses of legal frameworks and address them to fast track the signing of instruments.
The region is also recommended to strengthen the capacity or governments to negotiate with the private sector while Island states do need special consideration for support due to their uniqueness.
There is also a need to migrate to cost reflective tariffs to attract investment.
Swaziland’s King Mswati III said timely implementation of the identified energy projects will facilitate industrialisation and development of other sectors of the economy.
“This will lead to the enhancement of livelihoods of our people.