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    As it develops, Southern Africa relies on electricity for infrastructure projects that improve the economy and for social development in the region. While most Member States of SADC have abundant energy resources, they sometimes lack the technical capacity to put them to use. As a result, energy production and consumption varies widely throughout the region. With industrial productivity steadily increasing in the region, the World Bank anticipates the demand for electricity to increase by 40% over the next 10 years.

    In order to keep pace with demand and benefit its Member States, SADC promotes stronger Regional Integration of its Member States’ electricity sectors. Integration takes advantage of economies of scale, reducing the cost of electricity infrastructure development – especially in smaller countries – and saving the region $1.1 billion a year in energy costs.

    To better facilitate this integration, SADC passed its Protocol on Energy in 1996. This Protocol acts as a policy framework for effective use and development of energy in the region, including the electricity sector.

    Distribution of energy infrastructure in SADC.

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    The Protocol on Energy

    The Protocol on Energy advises SADC Member States to cooperate on electricity usage and development. Specifically, Member States should strive to:

    • promote power pooling and trade in electricity, as described in the Southern African Power Pool Intergovernmental Memorandum of Understanding;
    • promote integrated resource planning as it pertains to electricity, taking advantage of economies to scale to optimise investment and benefits;
    • coordinate a Regional Electricity Master Plan;
    • promote regional standards, rules, and procedures that relate to electricity generation, transmission, and distribution;
    • develop and use electricity in an environmentally sound manner, with projects following basic environmental standards;
    • emphasise universal access to electricity for all citizens of SADC Member States; and
    • encourage agreements, both inside and outside the region, on regional electricity development and trade.

    Toward these ends, the SADC Committee of Ministers should appoint a subcommittee that oversees development and progress in these areas.

    The Southern African Power Pool

    The Southern African Power Pool is a key achievement of both Regional Integration and increased access to electricity. At present, nine SADC Member States have connected together their power grids, creating a rudimentary but competitive energy market. In doing so, the Southern African Power Pool has expanded trade in electricity, reduced costs, and improved energy stability throughout the region. Witnessing the benefits to participating Member States, SADC’s Regional Energy Sector Programme aims to incorporate the other outlying SADC Member States into the Southern African Power Pool, extending grid connections to encompass the whole region and furthering the benefits of a regional energy market.

    Infrastructure Development

    In order to capitalise on the region’s potential for electricity generation, SADC encourages investment in the region’s electricity infrastructure, especially in electricity plants, transmission lines, coal depots, and nuclear demonstration plants.

    At present, most electricity in Southern Africa is produced through burning coal. However, SADC aims to develop the region’s renewable energy resources, with plans for hydropower plants underway in Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, and along the Zambezi River. As well, two transmission lines – the North-South Power Transmission Corridor and the Central African Interconnection – are under development.

    This new infrastructure, however, requires new training and capacity building. In order to make real gains in the energy sector, locals must be capable of operating and maintaining these infrastructure projects once they are constructed and must be available to do so.

    Access to Energy

    Along with industrial productivity, electricity generation can assist in SADC’s mandate of poverty eradication across Southern Africa. At present, only 5% of rural areas in Southern Africa have access to electricity, which inhibits their ability to control sanitation, clean water, and food. In 2010, SADC passed the Regional Energy Access Strategy and Action Plan, which aims to combine regional energy resources as a means of ensuring the entire SADC region has access to affordable, sustainable electricity. The plan’s goal is to within ten years reduce by half the number of people in the region without access to energy, and then halving it again every five years until the region has universal access.

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