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SADC Renewable Energy Strategy and Action Plan: Key to ensuring sustainable energy for all

June 2013
SOUTHERN AFRICA has the potential to achieve universal access to modern energy services if the region puts in place a sound and vibrant strategy to properly harness its renewable energy resources.

The SADC Energy Ministers meeting in Maseru, Lesotho, said the development of a renewable energy strategy will ensure that the SADC region is able to effectively manage and exploit its abundant natural resources.


Member states should thus advance the process of finalizing the SADC Renewable Energy Strategy and Action Plan (RESAP) that was discussed a few years ago.

“We note that renewable energy is an integral part of the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Initiative and urge member states, assisted by the SADC Secretariat, to mobilize resources to finalize the SADC Renewable Energy Strategy and Action,” the energy ministers said in a statement released after their meeting.

The objective of RESAP, initiated by the SADC secretariat with the government of Finland, is to explore options to increase the use of renewable energy in southern Africa, and to ensure that the regional energy strategy is aligned with global trends towards clean and alternative energy sources.

Renewable energy sources, including solar, hydro and wind, are less polluting to the environment compared to fossil fuels such as coal.

Furthermore, fossil fuels will not last forever, hence the need for southern Africa to prepare for the future and intensify efforts to harness its huge renewable energy resources.

SADC has an abundance of renewable energy sources, which if fully harnessed, will see the region being able to meet most of its energy needs.

For example, the overall hydropower potential in SADC countries is estimated at about 1,080 terawatt hours per year (TWh/year) but capacity being utiliz-ed at present is just under 31 TWh/year. A terawatt is equal to one million megawatts.

According to the SADC Secretariat, most countries have harnessed only a small fraction of their hydropower resources, and less than three percent of the total regional potential has been harnessed.

With regard to geothermal, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility estimate that about 4,000MW of electricity is available along the Rift Valley in the United Republic of Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique.

An increase in the uptake of renewable energy would ensure that SADC is able to achieve a sustainable renewable energy mix in the regional energy grid.

The Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) – which coordinates the planning, generation and transmission of electricity on behalf of member state utilities in SADC – expects to achieve a renewable energy mix in the regional energy grid of at least 32 percent of the total energy produced by 2020, which should rise to 35 percent by 2030.

Southern Africa currently generates about 74 percent of its electricity from coalpowered stations. Except for hydropower that accounts for about 20 percent of SADC’s total energy generation, other renewables such as wind and solar are not considered as major contributors to the region’s electricity needs.

The SADC Energy Ministers urged member states and the Secretariat to complete a feasibility study of establishing a centre of excellence for renewable energy and energy efficiency in the region. The proposed centre would, among other things, lead in the promotion of renewable energy development in the region.

The ministers resolved to fast track implementation of all interconnector and regional transmission projects to relieve congestion on the regional grid to facilitate electricity trading.

These projects include the Zimbabwe-Zambia-Botswana- Namibia (ZiZaBoNa) transmission project, and the Mozambique/Malawi Interconnector. Others are the Zambia/Tanzania/Kenya and the Namibia/Angola interconnectors.

The ministers noted that a total of 11 of the 15 SADC countries have introduced regulatory bodies in the form of energy or electricity regulatory agencies while the remaining member states are at different stages of the process.

The meeting also hailed the approval of the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP), saying it will help to attract key investment into the energy sector, which is one of the six priority areas of the plan.

The Energy Sector Plan seeks to address four key energy security areas – improving access to modern energy services, tapping the abundant energy resources, increasing financial investment, and enhancing environmental sustainability.

The 33rd SADC Energy Ministers meeting was attended by the acting Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thesele Maseribane, the SADC Director of infrastructure and services, Remigious Makumbe, and other energy experts from the region.