THE security of energy supply and energy infrastructure development is vital for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to achieve its goals of industrialisation and sustainable growth.
The Minister of Mines and Energy, Tom Alweendo said during the official opening of a SADC Joint-Meeting for Ministers responsible for Energy and Water; and senior officials in Windhoek that any shortage of electricity supply will have a serious and negative impact on industries, investment attraction, growth and job creation.
According to Minister Alweendo the region’s energy security is under threat especially with the continuous reliance on fossil fuels for power generation purposes. He said most of the fossil fuel driven power plants in the region have come the the end of their operational life spans and need to be decommissioned.
“The age of an environmentally conscious consumer coupled with availability of alternative technologies necessitates us as leaders to make more radical sustainable choices to bring in new and sustainable infrastructure as well as upgrade our existing infrastructure,” he said.
The SADC Region is facing a number of multiple challenges related to energy and water security, lack of access and un-affordability which have crippling effects on the economies of member states. According to the 2018 SADC Renewable energy and Energy Efficiency Status Report, access to electricity in most member states is below 50 percent compared to 55 percent for the Sub-Saharan Africa Region.
In terms of supply and demand, the Southern African Region has installed generation capacity of 71 950 megawatts and taking into account the current peak demand and generation capacity reserve margins, the Region has a deficit capacity of more than 650 MW. The installed capacity in the Region is still dominated by thermal coal-fired plants situated mainly in South Africa.
The recent investments in the new and renewable energy technologies and commissioned gas-fired power plants increased the number of primary energy sources in the generation mix.
The discoveries of natural gas both onshore and offshore in member states like Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, and Tanzania is expected to change the regional energy sector. The envisaged regional trade through gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) will require development of resilient interconnected gas infrastructure.
In this regard Minister Alweendo said that progress has been made with regional projects undertaken by member states. Such projects include the short-term measures implemented to rehabilitate old plants and construction of new power generation projects to address the overall generation deficit and achieve power supply adequacy by 2022.
“It is crucial that the private sector plays an active role in addressing the future electricity needs of the region. This will alleviate the funding burden from Government, relieve the borrowing requirements of our National Utilities and introduce generation technologies that were not previously considered as part of the core generation options, but yet could play a vital role as part of the future electricity supply options, in particular off-grid, embedded or distributed generation and small-scale renewable projects,” he said.
The performance in the water sector indicates that out of the over 300 million peoplethat forms the SADC population, approximately 60 percent has access to safe drinking water while only 40 percent has access to adequate sanitation facilities.
The ministers attending the meeting described the situation as undesirable and pose a serious constraint on the regional efforts to roll-out water and sanitation infrastructure services. The Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan and supporting strategies aim at turning around this state of affairs and aims to increase access levels to at least 75 percent by 2027 for both safe drinking water and sanitation.