While one million people in Botswana do not have access to electricity, those that do consume so much of it that they are among the top consumers in Africa.
“In Southern Africa, average consumption per capita is the highest of all sub-regions, but this is driven principally by very high levels in South Africa and relatively high levels in Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe ÔÇô all above 500 kWh per capita per year,” says the International Energy Agency in a report that considers Sub-Saharan energy prospects over the next 26 years.
By 2040, national grids expand gradually across sub-Saharan Africa, supporting wider electricity access, improving reliability of supply.
Electricity trade within sub-regions grows (as the power pools support greater regional cooperation), as does trade across sub-regions.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Mozambique are the largest net exporters of electricity, each developing large hydropower projects for the purpose, while South Africa (net imports meet 5 percent of demand in 2040), Nigeria (the second-largest importer, after South Africa) and some other parts of Southern Africa are the main net importers.
Expansion of cross-border transmission lines broadly follows the plans as outlined by the regional power pools and in the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), but are only partially implemented by 2040.
With the exception of South Africa, appliances presently account for around 70 percent of residential electricity consumption in Southern Africa.
All told, Sub-Saharan Africa has an estimated 43 million television sets (equivalent to about one in every four households), 17 million refrigerators (around one in every ten households) and 450 million mobile phones ÔÇô about one for every two people. Ownership of mobile phones in sub-Saharan Africa has risen at a brisk pace and provides access to multiple services, such as personal and business communications and online banking, for relatively low electricity consumption.
In reality, a small share of households owns a relatively large share of electric appliances.
“An even smaller share use electricity for water heating or cooking, both of which consume relatively high levels of electricity – mainly households in Southern Africa,” IEA says.
Total residential electricity demand in the sub-Saharan region will grow by 6 percent per year to 2040, with increasing and more reliable supply, and rising incomes funding the purchase of more appliances. Electricity use per electrified household grows by 14 percent, to just over 1800 kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2040; but this relatively modest increase hides efficiency improvements that take place in parallel. Consumption per capita is still only one-third of the world average in 2040.
The Agency predicts that despite all sub-Saharan sub-regions seeing a significant increase in the number of people with access to electricity, 530 million people will remain without it in 2040 ÔÇô far short of the progress desired.
Sub-Saharan electricity demand more than triples by 2040 to reach 1300 terawatt-hours (TWh).
Of this expansion, only 20 percent is attributable to those that gain electricity access over the period.
Industry is currently the largest end-user of electricity in sub-Saharan Africa and its demand more than doubles by 2040: national economies grow (boosting demand) while, at the same time, industries use energy more efficiently over time (restraining demand growth). Residential demand rises to more than five-times current levels to reach 520 TWh in 2040.
The electrification of Sub-Saharan Africa were put in sharp relief by an official from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) testifying to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in March this year: “Over a year, a refrigerator uses six times more electricity than a Tanzanian citizen, and it would take an Ethiopian citizen two years to consume the amount of electricity that an American does in three days.”
He added that Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) generates 28 gigawatts of power for more than 900 million people ÔÇô about the same as Argentina┬ágenerates for 42 million people and that “on any given day, a quarter of that energy is unavailable due to inefficient outdated infrastructure.”