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Southern Africa has embarked on a number of short and long-term projects to bolster its power generation capacity by more than 42 000 megawatts as the region steps up efforts to avert a shortage of electricity in 2007.
The Sadc region, with some of Africa's fastest expanding economies, is feared to run out of surplus generation capacity after 2007.
Net regional generation capacity is expected to clock 45 000 MW by 2007 against peak demand of well over 45 000 MW at that time.
The past 10 years have seen demand for power within the region increasing at a rate of about three percent per year but that increase has not attracted a corresponding increment in investment in generation and transmission infrastructure.
As a result, generation surplus capacity has been declining, resulting in warnings that Sadc could experience a critical shortage of electricity.
At present, the region has a combined total installed generation of 52 743 MW but the net generation output is around 45 000 MW, according to the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).
To operate optimally, SAPP must ensure it maintains a generation reserve level of 10.2 percent or higher at all times. It is projected that at current demand growth levels, the region could exhaust its reserve capacity by 2007 and would not be able to meet further increases in demand for power.
This has prompted member states, through SAPP, to embark on a systematic programme to build additional generation capacity by either constructing new power stations or enhancing the performance of existing facilities.
SAPP has developed a 20-year generation and transmission expansion plan, which highlights the benefits of co-ordinated planning and the attendant cost reductions that can be achieved if the projects are carried out jointly as compared to individual implementation.
The co-ordinated plan will only cost the region US$8 billion to boost generation capacity while the sum of the individual expansion plans by the respective power utilities is expected to cost US$11 billion.
A total of 22 short-term projects are at various stages of implementation across the region which, once completed, would boost Sadc's power generation capacity by 11 564 MW. The short-term projects are scheduled to be ready between 2005 and 2010.
These include the Capanda hydroelectric power project in Angola, which is expected to add another 260 MW of power to the regional grid on completion in 2007 and the refurbishment of the Inga 1 and 2 coal-powered project in the Democratic Republic of Congo will enhance regional capacity by a further 500 MW in 2007.
There are at least three new projects in South Africa -- one coal-powered facility and two gas projects -- that will inject an additional 5 600 MW into the regional power network between 2005 and 2010.
Other short-term projects include the second phases of the 110 MW Muela hydro-electric project in Lesotho, due for completion in 2010, and Malawi's Kaphichira hydro-electric project, which will increase the plant's generation capacity by 64 MW.
Namibia's power utility, NamPower plans to boost its capacity by 800 MW around 2009 by constructing the Kudu power station, which will be powered by gas.
The Maguga power station in Swaziland, which is due for completion in 2007, will add another 20 MW to the regional grid while four projects in Tanzania scheduled for completion between 2005 and 2007 have a combined capacity of 220 MW.
The Tanzanian projects, two each at Ubungo and Kinyerezi, will be powered by gas.
Zambia has earmarked four projects for expansion or refurbishment between 2006 and 2009, an exercise that will boost its generation capacity by 1 290 MW.
The Kafue Gorge Lower hydro-electric station, south of Lusaka, is expected to have a capacity of 600 MW when its capacity is expanded at a projected cost of US$500 million.
The Zambian government plans to export most of the power produced at this plant to Zimbabwe, Botswana and the DRC. The existing plant, known as the Kafue Gorge Upper power plant, currently produces 900 MW. The combined output of the two plants will be 1 500 MW after completion of the World Bank-funded rehabilitation programme.
Additional information: Read full story at All Africa
News date: 13/12/2006