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Towards a SADC strategy for renewable energy

SANF 16 no 52
Significant progress has been made to develop a regional strategy that will allow southern Africa to increase the uptake of cleaner and alternative energy sources, as well as develop innovative ways of using less energy to power its development agenda.

Energy experts from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) approved the Regional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Strategy and Action Plan (REEESAP) at a validation meeting held in October in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The REEESAP, which spans the period 2016-2030, aims to provide a framework for SADC member states to develop renewable energy strategies, leading to the greater uptake of RE resources as well as mobilization 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 prejudiced.

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 REEESAP also proposes to create a special purpose regional investment fund for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects of less than 10 megawatts (MW). The fund is expected, among other things, to support packaging of bankable projects

The adoption of the REEESAP will not only change the landscape of renewable energy development in SADC, but is also critical to encouraging the region to adopt innovative ways of using less energy to support development initiatives.

This is because SADC has vast with renewable energy sources, ranging from wind, solar and gas to hydro and biofuels.

According to the African Development Bank, 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.

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.

Approval of the REEESAP is expected to attract significant investment into the SADC renewable energy sector, allowing the region to increase energy access and availability.

In the same light, the REEESAP is expected to promote technological innovation in the sector that will ensure that the region uses less energy to provide the same service.

This will be achieved through various measures including the use of remote electric geyser switches, water sensor dispatching equipment and time-controlled shower units for institutions, as well as banning the use of incandescent light bulbs, electric geysers, boilers and other inefficient water heating and lighting equipment.

Switching from traditional light bulbs to compact florescent lamps and commercial lighting, as well as the uptake of solar water heaters have been effective in most SADC countries as they have significantly reduced energy use. The use of compact florescent lamps can save up to 80 percent of the electricity consumption compared to incandescent bulbs.

Solar water heaters are another energy conservation device. Research shows that use of solar water heaters could reduce household electricity bills by 40 percent or more.

Implementation of these energy efficiency measures in southern Africa has resulted in savings of about 4,561MW of electricity between 2009 and 2015. It is envisaged that the SADC region will save more than 6,000MW by 2018 if such initiatives are implemented according to plan.

Speaking at the validation meeting of the REEESAP, director in Swaziland’s Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, Henry Shongwe said it is critical for the region to improve access and availability of energy to promote socio-economic development.

He said without energy, the industrialisation agenda of SADC will not be accomplished, hence “sustainable energy is key as an enabler” in the regional integration agenda of the region.

Senior Programme Officer responsible for Energy at the SADC Secretariat, Moses Ntlamelle, concurred adding that the development of REEESAP “is a step forward” as it will help the region mobilize resources in a coordinated and structured manner.

Following its endorsement, the REEESAP is now expected to be presented to SADC Energy Ministers for consideration at their annual meeting scheduled for June 2017 in Malawi.

Once approved by the energy ministers, the REEESAP will then be sent to the SADC Council of Ministers and ultimately to the SADC Heads of State and Government Summit for final adoption at their annual summit scheduled for South Africa in August 2017.

The validation meeting of the REEESAP was attended by various stakeholders, including representatives of the SADC Secretariat, energy ministries and departments from SADC member states and the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre, which provides information support to the SADC Energy Thematic Group; as well as international cooperating partners.

The main implementation agency of the REEESAP will be the newly established SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE) based in Namibia.

The development of the REEESAP was initiated some time ago, but accelerated after the 34th SADC Energy Ministers meeting held in South Africa in 2015 tasked the Secretariat to conclude the development of the strategy.

In April 2016, the SADC Directorate of Infrastructure and Services launched a broad consultative process on the development of the strategy with the support of the European Union Technical Assistance Facility for the “Sustainable Energy for All” Initiative (SE4ALL) – Eastern and Southern Africa. The lead consultant is Atkins International.

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