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African Continental Power System Masterplan

By 2023, Cape Town and Cairo will be connected by electricity interconnectors that span the continent, Simbini Tichakunda of the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) told MPs at Climate Parliament’s online meeting to discuss the African Continental Power System Masterplan (CMP).

In 2022, an interconnector between Zambia and Tanzania will link the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) with the Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP) and in 2023 a link between Kenya and Ethiopia will connect these to the Northern Africa Power Pool (COMELEC).

The masterplan identified the critical infrastructure needed to create an African Single Electricity Market (AfSEM) so nations can trade electricity between each other as well as with Europe and Asia, Mr Tichakunda told MPs from Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

The first phase of the masterplan reviewed the five African power pools’ plans, identified power demand and generation capacity to 2063, and mapped the key transmission corridors and priority generation and transmission projects.

He noted that there are still some institutional gaps: COMELEC and the Central Africa Power Pool (CAPP) lack institutional capacity and have no associated regional regulatory authorities; EAPP needs an independent regulatory board; SAPP needs to turn the Regional Electricity Regulators Association into a regulatory authority; and the Western Africa Power Pool does not yet operate a regional market.

Thyrsos Hadjicostas from the EU Technical Assistance Facility outlined the current and planned medium-term contribution of renewable energy for the five African power pools. Two long-term scenarios were examined, one considering all Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) conditional on external funding and one using only unconditional NDCs.

AUDA-NEPAD will work closely with the power pools and develop a CMP Platform to host a common information system and modelling tool. In parallel, they will support studies on the CAPP and COMELEC masterplans and on increasing the contribution of renewable energy. Using bottom-up participatory planning, starting with countries, then regions, the aim is to have a continental masterplan verified by ministers in 2023 that will set out a plan for the next 20 years.

Sergio Missana, Executive Director of the Climate Parliament, reminded the meeting that in 2015, a McKinsey report found that a $9 billion investment in interconnectors could save $50 billion in generating capacity over 25 years. Nicholas Dunlop Secretary General of the Climate Parliament said that the level of ambition in Africa is exactly what is needed and noted that the two world leaders in power trading are the EU and SAPP and both had valuable lessons for other regions.

MPs welcomed that Africa was thinking big and that agencies were working well together to develop the technical and financial solutions but believed that further capacity building was needed. They noted future population increases would put pressure on the energy market, and while Africa had the renewable energy resources, some wondered whether the roll out would be fast enough and how it would reach poor countries and rural communities.

An MP reflected that before people can use renewable energy, they need access to electricity. 40% of Africans – 640 million people – have no access to electricity and Africans in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) use only 180 kWh annually, compared to 6,500 kWh in Europe and 13,000 kWh in the United States.

While there are many minigrids, there are not enough and MPs thought while AfSEM will help many people in remote areas who face regular electricity blackouts, they asked when women in rural areas would see the benefits, and when they would be connected to a regional power pool.

With the increasing use of hydropower, Barry Gardiner MP urged legislators to ensure that their countries are signatories to the Convention on the Law of the Non navigational Uses of International Watercourses, especially for people living downstream of a dam. Several MPs agreed to push for their countries to sign the convention.

Answering MPs’ questions, Thyrsos Hadjicostas said that national buy-in was fundamental to the CMP’s methodology and there would be regular stakeholder discussions. The CMP will reduce power shortages and electricity prices but is not the only thing needed to increase rural electricity access and more is needed at the rural and district level to link to local minigrids. The CMP will help attract finance and create the infrastructure for AfSEM, which MPs can support too.


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