Harare - For nearly a decade, SADC countries have been in the throes of an electricity crisis due to several factors, including El Niño-induced droughts that depleted water levels in the Zambezi River – a major hydroelectric power source – that have left some countries in the lurch energy-wise.
Growing electricity demand has seen several SADC states in recent years resorting to load shedding that lasts up to 18 hours a day for a period in the recent past.
However, the situation has been improving and the Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP) says this is thanks to Mozambique’s vast electricity generation capacity.
SAPP says while load-shedding has been significantly minimised across the region, nothing much has changed in terms of actual electricity output.
“Yes, most countries in the region have seen a change in terms of their electricity supply systems, (but) that doesn’t mean countries are now managing to meet their installed power generation capacities.
“The situation has been made better by Mozambique, as it is the only country that is currently meeting its installed power generation capacity and producing surplus to trade with other countries in the region,” SAPP co-ordination centre manager, Engineer Stephen Dihwa says.
Mozambique has installed generation capacity in the region of 2,827MW, but with a local access rate in the region of 29 percent, the country finds that it cannot presently absorb all that it is producing and this allows the country to make a tidy dollar by selling it to consumers outside its borders.
And on top of installed coal and hydro capacity, Mozambique is gearing for an energy boom in solar and in gas.
Gas in particular appears to be where Mozambique will position itself as veritable energy giant, and it is in the process of developing a liquefied natural gas project at a cost of more than US$20 billion, which has been touted as Africa’s biggest deal ever.
While the region waits for the gas development, Mozambique is already a major energy player in Southern Africa because of its hydro output.
“Most hydro power plants in Southern Africa where affected by drought, and now they are failing to meet the power supply demand. But that can’t be said in Mozambique’s case.
“Cahora Bassa Dam is one of the hydro power suppliers that was never affected by drought and it is doing very well,” Eng Dihwa explains.
“Water levels at Kariba Dam (which like Cahora Bassa is on the Zambezi Rover) are still low. During the last rain season there was a notable rise in the water levels, but it wasn’t enough for the Zambezi River Authority to change the water allocation for hydro power generation.
“Last year the Zambezi River Authority reduced water allocation for hydro power generation because water levels at Kariba Dam were becoming low and low due to drought.”
Kariba Dam is a major power source for Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Eng Dehwa continue: “Power generation in the region is still down to a greater extent. Countries like South Africa are no longer producing too much surplus despite their relationship with Mozambique’s Cahora Bassa.”
While Mozambique is smiling, other SADC members are rightly concerned with how to bridge their power deficits.
Most are looking to their own solar and gas potential, but at present Mozambique remains the big deal.