30 October 2012

Southern Africa: 'SAPP Should Have More Authority to Promote Energy Development'

The SADC Secretariat has called for member states to review the role and function of the Southern African Power Pool to ensure that the regional body becomes more effective in its efforts to promote development in the energy sector.

SAPP is a regional body that coordinates the planning, generation, transmission and marketing of electricity on behalf of member state utilities in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The power utilities in mainland SADC, with the exception of Angola, Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania, are interconnected through SAPP, allowing them to trade in electricity through a competitive market.

Established in 1995 through an Intergovernmental Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), SAPP has, among other things, managed to create a market for electricity in the region, allowing customers to benefit from the advantages associated with energy cooperation.

The regional power pool has also coordinated efforts to exploit the numerous energy resources that are in abundance in the region.

For example, SAPP has identified a number of priority energy projects for commissioning over the next few years to address energy shortages in the region.

Most of these projects target renewable energy sources such as solar, hydro and wind - which are less polluting to the environment compared to other forms such as coal thermal.

Addressing the recent 33rd SAPP executive committee meeting held in Harare, Zimbabwe, SADC Senior Programme Officer for Energy, Freddie Motlhatlhedi said for SAPP to fully carry out its duties, member states need to review the role and functions of the regional power pool.

Presently, SAPP has limited power to implement energy projects, and Motlhatlhedi says there is need for the power pool to have more authority in spearheading efforts to ensure that the region recovers from crippling power shortages that became more widespread in 2006/07.

"It is time we revise the Intergovernmental Memorandum of Understanding (IGMOU) and other agreements that created SAPP so that the organization is empowered and given more powers to enforce decisions made by member states," Motlhatlhedi said.

The IGMOU of 1995 was last reviewed in 2006 by the SADC Energy Ministers when they signed the Revised Inter-Governmental Memorandum of Understanding.

The IGMOU is one of four agreements that govern SAPP operations. Others are the Inter-Utility Memorandum of Understanding that established SAPP's basic management and operating principles; the Agreement Between Operating Members which established the specific rules of operation and pricing; and the Operating Guidelines, which provide standards and operating guidelines.

In this regard, SAPP operations are mainly based on a set of agreements among the member utilities as opposed to formal laws, which would, among other things, allow the regional body to have greater authority on issues of energy in the region.

Motlhatlhedi said consultations on the review of the IGMOU should commence ahead of the SADC Energy Ministers meeting scheduled for April 2013 in Lesotho.

He urged member states to set up a committee that will look at how best to restructure and review SAPP so that the recommendations could be approved by the SADC Energy Ministers next year.

Addressing the same meeting, Zimbabwe Energy and Power Development Minister, Elton Mangoma, urged SAPP to ensure that all member states are interconnected on the regional grid.

"SAPP needs to connect its three non-connected members, namely Angola, Malawi and Tanzania, to the interconnected regional grid," he said.

"The continued lack of interconnection of these member states is depriving the region and the citizens in these countries the benefits of interconnection that the rest of the members currently enjoy."

More transmission lines through the SAPP would also enable member states to benefit from new generation capacity installed in other countries.

With Angola, Malawi and Tanzania not interconnected through SAPP, it means that any new generation capacity installed in any of the three countries is not realized outside the nine other SAPP members.

The 33rd SAPP executive committee which was held on 18 October coincided with the inauguration of the new SAPP Coordination Centre offices in Harare.

The centre acts as a focal point for SAPP activities, particularly through the technical oversight of pool operations and facilitating electricity trading.

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