The Southern African Development Community Secretariat and its energy sector cooperating partners met this week to discuss initiatives the region is undertaking to ensure that power supply meets demand.
SADC is endowed with a wealth of energy resources that include solar, hydro, wind and coal, however, crippling power shortage continues to affect the region. The electricity shortfall, which was detected as early as 1999 and became more pronounced after 2007, has forced most countries to implement demand-side management programmes such as load shedding.
While load shedding has to some extent restrained the overall electricity demand in the region, the measure has affected socio-economic development since the availability of energy is one of the key enablers of sustainable development.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, has not spared the SADC energy sector. For example, the long-term implications of the COVID-19 lockdown measures are more worrisome since significant delays are likely to be experienced in implementing both planned energy projects and those where work had already started.
Faced with such challenges, SADC and its energy sector cooperating partners convened a virtual meeting of the SADC Energy Thematic Group (ETG) on 5 May to discuss ways of ensuring a coordinated approach to regional energy cooperation and development.
The SADC ETG comprises representatives of the SADC Secretariat, SADC energy subsidiary organisations, international cooperating partners (ICPs) and a knowledge partner, the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC). The lead ICP for the energy sector is the African Development Bank. SADC energy subsidiary organisations are the Regional Electricity Regulators Association of Southern Africa (RERA), SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE), and the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).
SAPP is a regional body that coordinates the planning, generation, transmission and marketing of electricity in Southern Africa on behalf of member state utilities. SACREEE spearheads the promotion of renewable energy development in the region, while RERA regulates energy trading in the region and SARDC raises awareness among stakeholders about key regional energy issues.
According to the draft agenda, the meeting will discuss a wide range of issues, including progress on implementing priority energy activities, programmes and projects as well as investment in new projects. Some of the priority projects include the construction of power interconnectors to allow SADC member states to share surplus energy.
All mainland SADC member states, except Angola, Malawi and Tanzania, are interconnected through the SAPP regional grid. Therefore, construction of new interconnectors such as the Angola-Namibia Interconnector, the Mozambique-Malawi Interconnector and the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya (ZTK) Power Interconnector is critical as it will connect the power networks of three non-operating members of SAPP, Angola, Malawi and Tanzania, to the regional grid.
The ZTK interconnector will not only link Tanzania to the SAPP grid but also connect the Eastern African Power Pool to SAPP, allowing countries in eastern Africa to share surplus electricity with those in Southern Africa.
Alternative Energy Sources
Regarding investment in new energy projects, the region needs about US$114 billion to US$233 billion between 2012 and 2027 to develop additional electricity generation capacity, according to the Energy Sector Plan of the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan.
SADC and its energy sector cooperating partners will also discuss how the region could harness and explore renewable energy sources that are in abundance. Renewable energy sources are not only affordable, secure and reliable, but are also less polluting to the environment compared to fossil energy such as coal.
The regional body aims to achieve a renewable energy mix in the regional grid of at least 35 percent by 2030. Currently, the regional energy mix is dominated by coal, which contributes more than 70 percent.
The SADC ETG is also expected to review its Terms of References to ensure that its operations and structure remain relevant and aligned to the changing dynamics in the energy sector at the regional, continental and global levels.