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Regional energy security dynamics in Southern Africa: electricity mixes in the context of global climate change mitigation pressures

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I. Mbirimi
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Southern Africa is experiencing widespread power shortages. This report looks at the main drivers of electricity generation in the region and evaluates the challenges that the region is likely to face as it seeks to expand its power generating capacity.
The need to ensure reliable, widespread and affordable power supplies has become a major policy priority for governments in the region. However, a number of factors contributed to these shortages, including poor planning, inadequate generating capacity and increased demand for power. Consequently, two options are available to the region for building new energy infrastructure: the expansion of national generating capacities or the cooperative regional expansion of generating capacity.
Findings include:

with concerns about climate change looming large, there is an urgent need to diversify the region’s energy sources away from the current high dependence on coal to hydro and non-hydro renewable sources of power
every effort should be made to adopt price setting mechanisms that are as fully cost reflective as they can possibly be, while aiming any subsidies provided at carefully targeted groups
actually, the challenge for the region is to strike the right balance between urgent short term requirements for increased power and the long term provision of cheaper, reliable and cleaner electricity
it would appear that the formation of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) offers a suitable framework for proper regional diversification and coordinated expansion of generating capacity
similarly, non-hydro renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind technology, may offer new opportunities for expanding access to electricity

The document suggests that there is an urgent need for reform of the energy regulatory framework both at the national and regional levels. This would reduce the “regulatory risk”—a major deterrent to investment in the sector.