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Southern Africa and its energy sector cooperating partners are meeting in Botswana to discuss ways of improving a coordinated approach to addressing the energy situation in the region.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has made great strides in addressing power shortages that have been experienced since 1999 and became more pronounced after 2007.
The situation has forced most countries in the region to implement demand-side management (DSM) strategies such as load shedding that have to some extent succeeded in restraining overall electricity demand in the region.
These DSM strategies, combined with a rigorous campaign to improve generation capacity and strengthen the transmission network across the region, have started paying off, with Southern Africa reporting surplus electricity generation capacity for the first time in 2017.
The SADC Energy Thematic Group (ETG) meeting scheduled for Gaborone, Botswana, this week was expected to discuss initiatives being undertaken by the region to ensure that power supplies continue to meet demand.
According to the draft agenda of the meeting, the SADC ETG will discuss, among other issues, activities by the SADC Secretariat and its various energy subsidiary organisations to promote cooperation in the energy sector.
The SADC energy subsidiary organisations are the Regional Electricity Regulators Association of Southern Africa (RERA), SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE), Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).
One of the activities that RERA is pursuing is to ensure the migration of all its member countries towards implementation of cost-reflective tariffs.
According to a report presented by RERA during the last ETG meeting held in Gaborone in October 2017, only Namibia has cost-reflective tariffs in the region.
Cost-reflective tariffs reflect the true cost of supplying electricity and remove the reliance on government subsidies.
SADC adopted the principle of cost-reflective tariffs as far back as 2004. However, most countries are failing to migrate to cost-reflective electricity tariffs due to fears about the impact of higher tariffs on consumers.
The ETG meeting is expected to get an update on the status of the establishment of SACREEE, in particular the signing of the Intergovernmental Memorandum of Agreement (IGMoA) by SADC member states. The IGMoA constitutes the formal founding act of the centre.
Once the IGMoA has been signed, Namibia and SADC will be able conclude a host country agreement for SACREEE.
The IGMoA was expected to have been signed by September 2017 with the country agreement secheduled for December the same year. However, various challenges are delaying the progress.
SACREEE is responsible for implementation of the SADC Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Strategy and Action Plan (REEESAP), which was approved in 2016.
The REEESAP, which spans the period 2016-2030, provides the framework for SADC member states to develop renewable energy strategies, leading to the greater uptake of renewable energy resources as well as mobilisation of financial resources in the sector.
This will be achieved by a variety of measures, including establishing renewable energy agencies in all 15 SADC member states that will have specific mandate for off-grid systems, as well as developing and adopting guidelines to meet the SADC target of cost-reflective tariffs by 2019 while ensuring that the poor are not prejud- iced.
Other proposed measures include raising awareness on the value and benefits of renewable energy and introducing sustainable energy issues in school curricula and tertiary education.
The SAPP Coordination Centre, which is based in Harare, will update the ETG with the status of implementation of various power generation and transmission projects.
More than 4,700 megawatts (MW) of new generation capacity are expected to be commissioned in 2018, with around 20 000MW more planned for commissioning between 2019 and 2022, according to SAPP.
Another issue to be discussed are efforts by the SADC petroleum and gas sub-committee.
This follows a call by South Africa as chair of SADC for the regional to establish an inter-state natural gas committee that will be charged with ensuring the inclusion and promotion of natural gas in the regional energy mix and with facilitating “an increase in universal access to energy as well as industrial development in SADC”.
According to the SADC Energy Monitor launched at the 36th SADC Summit in Swaziland in 2016, the contribution of gas to the regional energy mix is still very minimal, accounting for a mere 1,3 percent of the total power generation mix.
The low share of natural gas in the regional energy mix belies the fact the Southern Africa has some of the largest deposits of gas in the world.
The east coast of the SADC region has emerged in the past few years as one of the brightest spots on the global energy landscape, with large natural gas finds in Mozambique and Tanzania.
Exploration has taken place in other SADC member states although the exact amounts of reserves are unknown for these countries.
New offshore natural gas finds along the Mozambique coast are expected to be a “game changer” for the country and the southern African region. The country has estimated recoverable natural gas reserves of between 15 trillion and 30 trillion cubic feet (tcf), enough to meet one year’s gas consumption by the United States.
Tanzania has also identified natural gas reserves of more than 10 tcf from its deep-water offshore region.
The SADC ETG consists of representatives of the SADC Secretariat, SADC subsidiary organisations, international cooperating partners (ICPs) and the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC).
This will be the first meeting to be co-chaired by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) since it assumed the role of Lead ICP for the SADC energy sector. The previous Lead ICP was Austria. -sardc.net