David Muchagoneyi & Sinikiwe Marodza
Harare – The high cost of operating energy infrastructure and a dearth in bankable projects is hampering the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) from growing its manufacturing sector.
This was said by Comesa Assistant Secretary-General (Programmes) Dr Kipyego Cheluget at the recent 10th AGM of the Regional Association of Energy Regulators for Eastern and Southern Africa.
The total installed capacity for electric power in the 21-member bloc is around 92,000MW.
“It is, however, encouraging to note that most countries have realised that for any meaningful economic and human transformation to be realised, universal access to energy should be at the centre augmented by a strong political will and sustainable policy and legislative framework,” Dr Cheluget said.
Comesa estimates that 60 percent of the bloc’s population has access to electricity, with projections indicating the figure could rise to around 80 percent by 2040.
“This will, however, depend on heavily investing in energy infrastructure in the next 10 years. The low level and coverage of physical energy infrastructure is due to insufficient investment in the energy sector, inefficiency and unreliability of existing energy infrastructure services, increased demand for economic and population growth,” Dr Cheluget added.
The bloc has adopted the Comesa Model Energy Policy Framework to reform the energy sector in an effort to enhance energy security, accessibility, affordability and reliability.
As a result, the DRC and Djibouti recently established electricity regulators, joining Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe as Comesa members with such institutions.
Meanwhile, South Africa and Zimbabwe continue to face prolonged power outages.
South Africa’s power utility, Eskom, attributes the blackouts that have been going on for months now to lack of maintenance of electricity generating units.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe says Mozambique, a notable supplier of electricity to the country, is unable to meet peak winter demand.
In an interview with The Southern Times Business this week, Southern Africa Power Pool Co-ordinator Engineer Steve Dihwa said, “The main reason we are seeing load shedding is because during winter power demand picks up because of the cold weather, and now this is coming at a time when some plants in South Africa are out of service.
“This issue of servicing power generating units also comes at a time when industry has picked up, since the current conditions of lockdown are being implemented in a way that allows industry to grow, hence the high demand for electricity.”
He said Mozambique and Zambia were the only two SAPP members producing surplus electricity to trade with other countries.
There is some progress on the electricity front.
Last month the African Union officially launched the African Single Electricity Market (AfSEM), the world’s largest continent-wide energy trading programme to interconnect all 55 countries on the continent in an efficient, affordable and sustainable electricity market.
Implementation of the AfSEM will be supported by a continental power system masterplan currently under development, and should be ready for rollout in 2023.
“AfSEM is a great stop towards the eradication of the energy poverty and we as Southern Africa that’s exactly what we need,” Eng Dihwa said. “AfSEM will give us access to electricity from outside our region and when we have excess we can sell to a wider market and that’s a great business opportunity.”