Southern Africa Has Astronomical Energy Potential

Renewable energy
S. Africa is placing emphasis on renewable energy

AFRICANGLOBE – The potential for renewable energy (RE) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is estimated at 37,342 TeraWatt hours (TWh). According to a preliminary technical report, the largest contribution is coming from solar and bio-energy at 67 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

“Even if uncertainties are taken into account, current technical potential of 37,342 TWh is almost 83 times more than the estimated demand (450TWh) in the year 2030,” a representative of the SADC Secretariat, Odala Matupa, said during the Regional Energy Regulators Association’s (RERA) 10th anniversary meeting held in Windhoek recently.

However, only a small fraction of this abundant clean energy sources are utilised in a region with diminishing power availability.

With regard to solar energy, most SADC countries have very high annual insolation figures from 5.5 to 7 kiloWatt hours (kWh/m2) per day. Matupa said with regard to bioenergy, the potential arises from replacing the present fireplaces and stoves (efficiency typically ~ 10 percent) with better ones.

In addition, opportunities for wind energy production within the Southern Africa region are also relatively good. The average capacity factor for wind energy is about 15 to 20 percent, while the global average of the installed capacity is 19.6 percent. According to the SADC representative, the global average for installed capacity (19.6 percent) is higher than the global average capacity since the best sites have been developed first.

The overall hydropower potential in SADC countries is 1,080 TWh/year, while present production is 31 TWh/year.

“Most countries have harnessed only a small fraction of their resources and less than three percent of the total potential in the whole SADC has been harnessed,” Matupa added. He said geothermal energy also has significant potential, especially in the regions where the SADC region overlaps the Rift Valley.

According to Matupa, a potential 4,000 MegaWatt (MW) of electricity is available along the Rift Valley in Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique. Of the 14 SADC member states only Swaziland, Mozambique and Angola do not have an energy policy. Namibia, South Africa and Zambia are the only three SADC countries with a renewable energy policy, but Namibia does not have a renewable energy strategy, while Mauritius has a renewable strategy but no renewable energy policy.

Again, Mauritius is the only country with a renewable master plan and an action plan, while no SADC country has a dedicated institutional arrangement for renewable energy. Only Namibia and South Africa have a regulatory framework for renewable energy, as well as plans for the integration of renewable energy in rural electrification.

Challenges causing the negligible use of renewable energy in the region are identified as the slow pace of policy development, reforms and adoption in the member states, as well as inadequate capacity to provide regional coordination and oversight for renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency (EE); lacking collaboration and coordination to leverage financial and technical resources; a paucity of RE data, especially for biomass data not readily available for planning purposes and inconsistencies in policy, targets and definitions, while RE has to compete with the abundant and relatively inexpensive fossil fuel energy.

Matupa suggests that the financing of RE should come from the usage of direct cash and tax incentives, low interest government-subsidised loans and loan guarantees, the use of levies and surcharges such as rural electrification funds (rural energy funds), green market programmes, carbon trading and clean development mechanisms, RE portfolio standards, energy regulators to require minimum percentage contributions of RE to total energy consumption, feed-in-tariffs, carbon markets as well as private financing.

He however noted that a further buy-in of an action plan is required with all stakeholders involved, as well as the formulation of national roadmaps towards the development of national RE policies and strategies (with targets), which is key to setting the pace for investment in RE/EE. According to Matupa, the concept for setting up a Regional Centre of Excellence for RE and EE requires more consultations to ensure sustainability.


By Irene Hoaes