Regional Energy Security Dynamics in Southern Africa: Electricity Mixes in the Context of Global Climate Change Mitigation Pressures

By Ivan Mbirimi on August 15, 2010

Following recent power shortages in Southern Africa, energy security, particularly the need to ensure reliable, widespread and affordable power supplies, has become a major policy priority for governments in the region.

This paper looks at the main drivers of electricity generation in the region and evaluates the challenges that the region is likely to face as it seeks to expand its power-generating capacity.

Key Findings:

  • Energy security is hindered because energy planning and service provision has been limited to nation states and is the preserve of monopolist state-owned enterprises. This approach is sub-optimal because, while national authorities only plan for their geographical area, energy sources do not respect these boundaries, which underscores the importance of regional energy integration.

  • South Africa, on account of the size and carbon intensity of its economy and the tension between expanding access to electricity to meet social and economic imperatives and sustainable development, is an anchor country in the region.

  • There is already significant electricity trade taking place amongst countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) via the South African Power Pool (SAPP).

  • There is the need for the region to diversify its energy sources and incorporate other energy types to include renewable energy.

  • The region lacks adequate policies that would accelerate the demonstration, development and deployment of low-emission energy technologies.

Key Recommendations:

  • Despite concerns about whether the political commitment exists to drive forward the program of the regional power pool, SAPP offers the region the best avenue to energy security. But the road is still long, hence solid and sustained political commitment to and support for the objectives of the regional power pool will be required.

  • There is a need for clear and transparent regulatory frameworks that will remove obstacles for investors and suppliers of electricity sourced from renewable energy.

Report details

IISD, 2010