Southern Africa’s reserve margin to stabilise as power capacity is added

9th April 2013 By: Idéle Esterhuizen

The Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) member countries planned to commission about 18 000 MW of additional power generation capacity by 2016, which would improve the current negative reserve margin to as much as 15%, SAPP Zimbabwe coordinator center manager Lawrence Musaba indicated on Tuesday.

The current demand-supply ratio in the SAPP was running at a deficit, with a negative reserve margin of about -4.6%, compared with the preferred 10%. Although SAPP members boasted a combined installed power generation capacity of 57 183 MW, they only had a combined available power generation capacity of 51 702 MW, which indicated a shortfall of 7 709 MW.

However, Musaba pointed out that the SAPP’s reserve margin was expected to improve from 2016 onwards when most of the power generation projects that were currently at a planning or construction stage will be operational.

“This year, we expect to commission 1 992 MW in new generation capacity, while in 2016, we expect to commission 6 021 MW in generation capacity. And from now to 2016, 17 856 MW will be commissioned,” he indicated at the Power & Electricity World Africa conference this week.

Musaba noted that, to meet the growing power demand in the Southern African region would require a coordinated approach to planning and implementation of generation and transmission projects.

SAPP comprised 12 countries, which house 250-million people with a yearly energy consumption rate of 400 TWh and a yearly average energy growth rate of 2.5%.

“Secure regional integration will ensure availability of power to all SAPP members via the established energy trading platforms,” he noted.

Musaba added that the benefits of power pooling/energy trading included increased supply and reliability, improved sector investment and reduced operational costs.

However, generation and transmission capacity constraints were among the key factors affecting bilateral trading in the SAPP and about $5.6-billion would be required to develop transmission projects in the region.

Meanwhile, US Energy Association executive director Barry Worthington said Africa should aspire toward an abundant, affordable, reliable and clean power system, no less than that of Europe and North America, as the continent was endowed with an affluence in energy generation sources.

He indicated that, by the middle of the century, all fossil fuel power generation units in the world were expected to be linked to a carbon-capture and storage unit. Worthington urged Africa to start planning for when these systems would be installed on the continent in the next decade or two.

In future, he stated, nuclear power would become a viable part of energy mixes the world over, as small modular nuclear reactors, which were about one-third the size of conventional nuclear power plants, offered various safety, construction and economic benefits.

He noted that, like the US, Africa required an ‘All-of-the-above strategy for Energy’, which stipulated that all available energy sources be developed. This included oil, gas, coal, wind, solar, nuclear and biofuels.

“Supply is not the only part of the story. The African power sector can also be more efficient, smarter and greener. It can leapfrog from other countries in the world and foreign investment is one tool to achieve this,” Worthington told delegates.