SADC adds 25,000MW in ten years

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Windhoek - Southern Africa has added 25,000MW to the regional grid in past decade, as governments push to improve on the current situation where about 45 percent of the population does not have access to electricity.

Several major generation projects are at various stages of implementation to guarantee access to electricity. These include a 5,000MW scheme between Botswana and Namibia, the 2,400MW Batoka Gorge (Zambia and Zimbabwe), the Hwange expansion in Zimbabwe, nuclear and solar initiatives in South Africa, and several hydro plants in Zambia. Countries are also exploring wind and biomass options.

SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREE) Executive Director Mr Kuda Ndlukula this week told African Health and Climate Change that the region had in the past ten years accessed US$10 billion from capital markets for generation and transmission projects.

Part of the funding, Mr Ndlukula said, came from Export-Import Bank of China, which invested about US$3,4 billion in renewable energy in the region.

Other major financiers were the Brazil Development Bank, European banks and local institutions such as the Development Bank of Namibia and the Development Bank of South Africa. Multilateral institutions like the African Development Bank have also been pivotal in supporting new energy projects.

Mr Ndlukula said, “We are looking at about 25,000 megawatts of installed new generation coming in the last 10 years, but again you may ask: what kind of generation are we talking about? Unfortunately still coal. A lot of it (new generation) in terms of capacity has come from coal and then followed by hydropower, and we also have seen new renewables coming in: solar, wind as well as biomass and of course some ‘cleaner energy’ such as gas.”

He said countries were increasingly looking to development financial institutions for support as they offered better repayment terms than commercial lenders.

“I wouldn’t say with precision as to what are the exact rates that we are looking at, but in most cases because energy generation projects, they take time to build and they also last a bit longer in terms of operations, so we looking at loan repayment period of around 15 to 20 years; then obviously the rates will be much lower than the commercial rates. It depends. In some cases it can be five to six percent or more but again I wouldn’t put my head on the block regarding that figure because it varies with the conditions on the ground.”

NamPower MD Kahenge Haulofu told The Southern Times Business that the utility was looking at spending N$415 billion, sourced internally and from the market, to support Namibia’s energy needs in the next five to ten years.

He added that utilities across the region needed to collaborate better to build capacity.

“While we are a huge country we are not as blessed as our neighbours in Zimbabwe and South Africa who have an abundance of coal and can build their power stations on coal mining, cutting out expenses in the process. For us we would have to import the coal from South African and that supply chain does not come cheap,” he said.

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