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Five countries bid to host SADC renewable energy centre

November 2014

At least five countries are vying for the right to host the proposed regional centre for the promotion of renewable energy in southern Africa.

According to a recent meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Energy Thematic Group held in Botswana, bids to host the proposed SADC Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREE) have been received from Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

South Africa’s bid is, however, subject to parliamentary approval.

Head of the SADC Directorate on Infrastructure and Services, Remigious Makumbe said establishment of SACREE, including the choice of the host country, was awaiting the holding of the annual SADC Energy Ministers meeting.

The SADC Energy Ministers meeting was scheduled for September, but was postponed after Malawi said it was not able to host the meeting due to various challenges. Mauritius has been approached to serve as alternative host.

The decision of the ministers would be forwarded to the SADC Council in February 2015, which would give final approval.

The establishment of SACREE is expected to increase the uptake of clean energy in southern Africa, enabling the region to address its energy challenges.

SADC has been experiencing power shortages dating as far back as 2006 due to a combination of factors, including the lack of investment in the energy sector.

This is despite the fact that the region has an abundance of energy sources, particularly renewable energy, which, if fully harnessed, could greatly boost power generation in the region.

In this regard, SADC countries have intensified efforts on how to exploit renewable energy resources such as wind, hydropower and solar.

The proposed centre would, among other things, promote market-based adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and services in SADC member states.

The centre is expected to contribute substantially to the development of thriving regional renewable energy and energy efficiency markets through knowledge sharing and technical advice in the areas of policy and regulation, technology cooperation, capacity development, as well as investment promotion.

Various cooperating partners such as the Austrian Development Agency and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) have pledged to provide financial support to the centre for the first three years. After that, the centre should be self-sustaining.

Establishment of the centre is expected to be carried out in three phases, the first of which involves the selection of a host country and establishment of the SACREE Secretariat.

The management team will be headed by an executive director appointed by the executive board and will consist of various levels of permanent staff to be complemented by consultants and seconded international staff as may be deemed necessary from time to time.

The Preparatory Phase, that was initially expected to run from January-October 2014, would also see the creation and inauguration of the SACREE executive board and technical committees.

The composition of the executive board and technical committee will be agreed upon by member states.

The First Operational Phase is now expected to run from the end of 2014-2017 during which the centre will primarily focus on developing renewable energy programmes for the region and resource mobilisation.

The Second Operational Phase, from 2018-2021, will focus on activities to ensure sustainability of the centre after the exit of international cooperating partners such as UNIDO.

Establishment of the SACREE is expected to see a gradual increase in the uptake of cleaner energy sources that could result in reduced carbon emissions in line with the global trends towards clean and alternative energy sources.

Renewable energy sources 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 by intensifying efforts to harness its huge renewable energy resources.

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), the region has the potential to become a “gold mine” for renewable energy due to the abundant solar and wind resources that are now hugely sought after by international investors in their quest for clean energy.

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

The SADC region is also hugely endowed with watercourses such as the Congo and Zambezi, with the Inga Dam situated on the Congo River having the potential to produce about 40,000 MW of electricity, according to SAPP.

With regard to geothermal, the United Nations Environment Programme 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.