The Southern Africa region plans to commission new power projects that is expected to add 3,059 megawatts of power this year as the region targets to ensure that it meets its energy requirements by 2020.
According to the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), which is coordinating the planning, generating and transmitting the electricity on behalf of the member state utilities, a big percentage of the new power this year will come from South Africa.
A total of 1,624MW from three power generation projects will be commissioned in South Africa.
Zambia will also contribute a significant amount of power and is expected to add 300MW to the regional power grid.
Angola, which is yet not yet connected to the regional grid, is expected to contribute 780MW.
Out of the new power generation projects scheduled for commissioning in this year, only 2,269 MW will be added to the regional grid since the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is yet to be fully integrated in terms of energy trading.
All SADC countries on the mainland, apart from Malawi, Angola and Tanzania, are interconnected through SAPP regional grid, enabling them to share surplus energy.
The new generation capacity that is installed in any of the three countries is not accessible to the nine other members of SAPP – South Africa, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The largest portion of the new generation capacity in the region in 2016 is expected to come from gas, with five projects – three from Mozambique and two from South Africa – lined up to add 1,410 MW by the end of year.
As opposed to previous years where power generation mainly came from coal-fired plants, 2016 will see only two new coal projects joining the grid with a combined output of 390MW, which translates to 12.74 percent.
The shift towards the use of renewable energy is as a result of a resolution made in 2012 by southern African countries to step up the adoption of cleaner and alternative sources of energy that result in reduced emission of Ozone gases that are the core causes of climate warming and cause environmental damage.
Apart from being affordable, reliable and secure, renewable energy such as hydro, wind and solar and will cannot be depleted and are also in abundance in the SADC region.
In the long-term SADC member countries have set a plan to achieve a renewable energy mix in the regional grid of at least 32 percent by 2020 and 35 percent by 2030.
According to the African Development Bank, the southern region alone has the potential and ability to become a power house for renewable energy due to the abundant solar and wind resources that are now highly sought after by foreign investors in their quest for clean energy.
The SADC region also has the abundance of water recourses such as the Congo and Zambezi, with the Inga Dam located on the River Congo having the ability to produce about 40,000MW of electricity, according to SAPP.
Regarding geothermal energy production, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Environment Facility projects that about 4,000MW of electricity can be produced along the Rift Valley in Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi.
Out of the new energy generation projects expected to be commissioned this year, a big portion of it will be generated from Independent Power Producers (IPPs) who are expected to contribute about 71.06 percent of new generation.