The Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) is actively pursuing the concept of a virtual power station as it seeks to augment on-going efforts to increase electricity generation capacity to beat shortages in the region.
A Virtual Power Station, also known as Virtual Power Plant (VPP), is not a physical power station but makes extensive and sophisticated use of information technology, advanced metering, automated control capabilities, and electricity storage to match short-interval load fluctuations.
The VPP integrates the operation of supply- and-demand-side assets to meet consumer demand for energy services in both the short- and long-term.
The VPP concept also makes use of long-term load reduction achieved through energy efficiency investments, distributed generation, and verified demand response on an equal footing with supply expansion.
SAPP has taken significant steps in establishing a Virtual Power Station, and the various energy efficiency projects and Demand Side Management (DSM) programmes being pursued by the regional power pool are building blocks of this initiative.
SAPP is a 12-member 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 Member States, with the exception of Angola, Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania, are interconnected through SAPP, allowing them to sell electricity to one another through a competitive market.
Faced with an electricity shortfall of about 8,000 Megawatts (MW), the SAPP has also been actively promoting energy efficiency technologies such as the replacement of incandescent bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) and solar lamps as well as introduction of the solar water heater programme, hot water load control, and the commercial lighting programme.
Switching from traditional light bulbs to CFLs has been an effective programme by SAPP to reduce energy use at home and prevent greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
Research shows that residential lighting accounts for about 20 percent of the average home electricity bill in the SADC region.
However, compared to incandescent bulbs, CFLs have been shown to save up to 80 percent of electricity consumption.
Similarly, the hot water load control programme being pursued by SAPP has enabled consumers to install load-control switches that automatically turn off power during peak periods or when appliances such as geysers have reached maximum demand.
Most SAPP member countries have introduced the CFLs on a large scale. Other forms of energy efficiency and DSM programmes are at various levels of implementation.
According to SAPP figures released to the SADC Energy Thematic Group, the target is to save 2,450MW of power this year using these four energy efficiency and DSM initiatives.
The power savings are expected to gradually increase to 6,000MW by 2018, by which time the use of incandescent bulbs would be banned in all Member States and a SAPP Energy Efficiency Framework Document would be in place.
A taskforce has been formed to finalise the framework, which is expected to show how the power pool would roll out its energy efficiency programme.
The framework will also define the private sector participation and the role of energy service companies. SADC Today