Power Surplus in Southern Africa to Harm Independents, SADC Says

New independent power producers in southern Africa will increasingly struggle to win sales agreements from governments as the area moves closer to a projected electricity surplus in 2019, a regional economic cooperation body said.

While the region had a power deficit of 8,247 megawatts at end of June, that shortfall is expected to be eliminated within four years, said Remmy Makumbe, the Southern African Development Community’s infrastructure and services director.

“Countries will be cautious in signing power-purchase agreements,” Makumbe told reporters in the Botswana capital, Gaborone. “These agreements often require that countries pay for the supply whether or not they are taking up the power. For now the demand is still high, but going forward towards 2019, there will be a dwindling of consumers.”

SADC estimates that member countries will add 24,062 MW of new generation capacity in the next four years, 70 percent of that from renewable energy sources. The projects include South Africa’s Medupi coal-fired plant, three hydropower ventures in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a gas-burning plant in Namibia.

Zimbabwe is among SADC states “critically analyzing” power-purchase deals because it “does not want to wind up with power that it will have to sell at a very low cost,” Makumbe said in an interview after the briefing.

Demand in the region required about 3,000 MW in new generation each year, a pace that will be overtaken by the projects in development, he said.

SADC states are taking steps to reduce their power consumption by promoting the use of energy-saving lamps, solar water heaters and other systems, Makumbe said. These moves reduced the amount of power the region needed to generate from 2010 to 2014 by 4,561 megawatts.

— With assistance by Mbongeni Mguni

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