Renewable energy sources such as solar, hydro and wind are less polluting of the environment, and, unlike fossil fuels such as coal, will not be depleted. Meeting in Gaborone, Botswana for the 2nd Sadc workshop on Renewable Energy Strategy and Action Plan (Resap), energy experts from the region agreed that southern Africa should increase its uptake of cleaner energy sources to ensure sustainable development.
This is in recognition of global efforts to address climate change and its devastating impact on socio-economic development. The meeting agreed that the Southern African Power Pool (Sapp) must achieve a renewable energy mix in the regional energy grid of at least 32% by 2020, which should rise to 35% by 2030.
Sapp, a 12-member regional body that coordinates the planning, generation and transmission of electricity on behalf of member state utilities in Sadc, currently generates about 74% of its electricity from thermal stations.
Renewable energy sources, which are in abundance across the region, are not yet considered as major contributors to the region’s electricity needs, save for hydropower that accounts for about 20% of Sadc’s total energy generation. Southern Africa has tended to focus more on fossil fuels since thermal stations are easier and cheaper to construct compared to hydro and wind plants.
In spite of these challenges, southern Africa is determined to address the situation and achieve a balanced energy mix in the near future. Member states have already started identifying renewable energy projects that could be commissioned and connected to the regional grid by 2020.
Sapp is set to develop a renewable energy development plan of the priority projects, and link this to the proposed Sadc Infrastructure Master Plan.
The master plan, initiated in 2007 and due for launch soon, is expected to guide all regional developments in key infrastructure such as road, rail and ports.