The cost of meeting sub-Saharan Africa’s power demand has been estimated at about $14-billion a year and cannot be met by public funding alone.
Although public utilities have historically been the major sources of funding for new power generation capacity, South African Energy Minister Jeff Radebe said on Tuesday that the trend was changing in Africa, where 600-million people are without access to modern forms of energy.
“In some African countries, less than 5% of the rural population has access to electricity owing to most African governments being unable to fund their own power needs. Public utilities do not have enough capacity to meet sufficient demand at affordable rates,” he said during his keynote address at the Power and Electricity World Africa conference, in Johannesburg.
Finance institutions have only partially filled the funding gap, said Radebe.
“Given the huge funding requirement for increasing access to energy power generation, it is very clear that we need to encourage, facilitate and leverage private sector investment and partnerships,” the Minister said, adding that private investors required regulatory certainty for long-term investment commitments.
Radebe highlighted the importance of regional integration to meet the electricity demand of sub-Saharan Africa, pointing to several strategic programmes, including energy transmission initiatives into Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“We believe that the project in the DRC can unleash clean and affordable hydropower to meet the energy needs of all in the sub-region,” he said about the Grand Inga project, which could produce about 40 000 MW of electricity.
Radebe further noted that the integration of economies in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) could only happen if transmission interconnections were developed.
As these projects have long lead times, there is a need to plan for decentralised energy access to immediately tackle energy poverty at household level across Africa. This, the Minister enthused, would lead to energy further becoming a critical driver for economical and educational development in Africa.
“It is also important for me to highlight that the universal access roadmap in South Africa is on the exploitation of all available technology options to find an energy solution to all Africans utilising grid-distributed generation and solar home systems.
Meanwhile, Department of Energy (DoE) director-general Tabane Zulu noted that the DoE was aiming to achieve greater cooperation within the SADC region.
Commenting on the finalisation of South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which is several years out of date, Zulu noted that further consultation was requested after the formal draft of the update was considered in December.
“Until such time that we’ve concluded with other outstanding stakeholders in the IRP, the IRP is yet to be officially gazetted for implementation purposes,” Zulu said.
Radebe said on March 8 that an announcement on the IRP would be made soon.