The Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, has appealed to the Southern African Development Committee (SADC) Energy Ministers to invest immensely in both the power generation and the supporting transmission capacity in order to match the increasing power demand in the SADC region which is growing at about 3 percent or 1 200 MW per year.
Speaking at an emergency SADC Energy Ministers Task Force meeting held recently, the Minister highlighted that though this is the case, the irony is that the SADC region has abundant natural resources.
Kedikilwe stressed that, like all dark clouds, the SADC region’s current electricity supply situation, stressful as it is for all role players, presents a silver lining of opportunity for private sector participation to invest in regional power generation and transmission projects. For the private sector to positively contribute, the Minister said the government should create a conducive environment to allow meaningful development by this sector.
“We need to create an enabling environment by putting in place appropriate regulatory frameworks and pursuing cost reflective tariffs. I believe this is what we are all pursuing as reflected in recent developments in Botswana, where we have now changed our legislation to allow Independent Power Producers (IPP) to participate in the electricity supply market,” he stated.
The Minister said the investments that are necessary to restore an adequate balance between supply and demand in the region might, of necessity, translate into tariff increases unless volumes are reached to reduce unit costs. To minimize the impact of such increases, he said it is essential that regional utilities strive to improve their operational efficiencies and optimize their operations.
“The unpleasant and unwanted scenario which threatens our economies calls for immediate concerted joint efforts and vigorous project implementation. We shall be able to formulate a quick concrete and implemental plan that will deliver on the power situation,” added Kedikilwe.
In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of SADC, Tomas Salomao pointed out that the current electricity supply-demand balance situation in the SADC region is indeed precarious. He said it is evidenced by the recent frequent recurrence of black outs and load shedding in virtually all the countries of the SADC region as well as Madagascar. According to Salomao, the current available power in Madagascar is 200 mega-Watts (MW), against a demand threshold of 2 000 MW, and worse still, a long term demand of 4 000 MW.
“Clearly the solution to Madagascar’s power needs rests in a collective regional approach,” he stated.
“This is clearly a result of an inadequate generation capacity, which is threatening our region’s economic growth, regional productivity competitiveness, job creation and retention and has resulted in great anxiety at all levels of society,” he explained.
According to Salomao, there can be no doubt that a radical approach and paradigm shift is required to fast track implementation of power projects, which include inter-connector projects to connect Angola, Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania to the Southern African Power Pool.
He said he is confident that members of the Task Force, supported by the rest of the Ministers responsible for Energy, will come up with an Emergency Response Strategy to this emerging situation, especially as Africa seeks to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the 2010 AFCON Cup in Angola, and the 2011 All Africa Games in Zambia.
Salomao re-assured the participants that the Secretariat, in conjunction with RERA and the SAPP, shall work tirelessly with all the approved structures to overcome the power investment gap.
“The power investment is currently estimated at 5 billion USD for short term projects, that is, for complexion by 2010, and 44 billion USD in the long term, that is, for completion by 2025,” he said.