Southern Africa plans to commission new projects that will add 2,763 megawatts to the regional grid this year as the region targets to meet its energy needs by 2018.
Of the planned capacity from the 13 projects being undertaken in six SADC Member States, the majority will come from South Africa where at least five projects are targeted for commissioning this year, producing an additional 1,828MW for the regional grid.
According to the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) Coordination Centre manager, Dr Lawrence Musaba, another significant contribution to the regional power grid is expected to come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is due to add 430MW this year.
Coal will contribute the largest share of the new generation capacity in South Africa, with the coal-fired Medupi Power Station expected to have additional capacity of 738MW by the end of this year.
With regard to the regional target of increasing the uptake of clean energy, about 45 percent of the planned new capacity for 2015 is expected to come from renewable energy sources.
The uptake of renewable energy follows a resolution made in 2012 by southern African countries to increase the uptake of cleaner energy sources that result in reduced carbon emission. The long- term target set by regional energy experts is that SAPP should achieve a renewable energy mix in the regional grid of at least 32% by 2020 and 35% by 2030.
In addition, gas is becoming a major contributor of energy in the region as five of the projects to be commissioned are gas-fired, with South Africa expected to contribute 435MW from co-generation capacity between the national power utility ESKOM and an Independent Power Producer (IPP).
This year will witness a major share of planned capacity coming from IPPs who contribute about 32% of new generation.
For example, new power to be commissioned in Zimbabwe and Mozambique will be produced by IPPs. Zimbabwe has four notable IPP hydro-power stations, one of which, the Pungwe, is expected to be commissioned this year and contribute 15MW to the power grid.
The Ressano Garcia and Kuvanianga power stations in Mozambique are also run by IPPs and are expected to add 175MW and 30MW respectively to the regional grid. According to SAPP, southern Africa plans to commission 24,062MW of power between 2015 and 2019 if all proposed projects come on stream. This development will see the region finally meeting its power needs after several years of shortages.
Since 2007 the region has been facing challenges in meeting its energy requirements, forcing most SADC Member States to implement demand-side management policies such as load shedding that have to some extent succeeded in restraining overall electricity demand in the region.