Renewable energy the future for SADC
Access to clean sustainable energy has become part of the international development agenda during the past two decades, reflecting the global recognition of the important role that energy plays in the delivery of basic services and in generating jobs and income.
Widely regarded as the “Missing Millennium Development Goal (MDG)”, energy has a direct impact on the welfare of people, facilitating the supply of water and fuelling agricultural output, helping in the delivery of health and education, creating job and contributing to overall environmental sustainability.
According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), the region has the potential to become a ‘gold mine’ for renewable energy due to the abundant solar and wind resources that are now hugely sought after by international investors in their quest for clean energy. For example, the overall hydropower potential in SADC countries is estimated at about 1080 terawatt hours per year (TWh/year) but capacity being utilised at present is just under 31 TWh/year. A terawatt is equal to one million megawatts (MW).
The SADC region is also hugely endowed with watercourses such as the Congo and Zambezi, with the Inga Dam situated on the Congo River having the potential to produce about 40,000 MW of electricity, according to SAPP.
However, at present there are low levels of Renewable Energy (RE) penetration and use across the region.There is overwhelming evidence of underutilisation of RE across the region in spite of there being abundant resources to produce RE. In the majority of cases, RE projects, particularly those involving more than one SADC member state, often take long to get off the ground. This is partly attributed to the challenges associated with cross-border trade as national interests have the tendency to prevail over regional energy needs. There is, therefore, need to adopt measures to stimulate the uptake of RE products and technologies. There is also need for a harmonized sub regional RE framework that will, among other things, result in the reduction of investment costs in RE technologies and improved reliability of the quality of new and renewable energy services.
It is in light of this that the SADC region is developing a centre to promote the uptake of RE products and technologies.
The proposed SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE) is expected to increase the uptake of clean energy in southern Africa, enabling the region to address its energy challenges.