Development of Regional Energy Infrastructure

It has been estimated that the actual demand for electricity in the COMESA exceeds the supply by more than 20%. Therefore, this energy deficit is considered to be one of the major problems that face the COMESA region nowadays.  This trend would, most likely, continue in the future because the forecasted maximum demand for electric power in 2009 and 2011 will exceed the installed capacity in 2005 by 33% and 46% respectively.

Many factors contribute to COMESA’s energy problem. They include, among others, the following:

  • insufficient investment in the energy sector, in the sense that the region’s commercial energy resources are still underdeveloped including their infrastructure such as electricity transmission and distribution networks, petroleum and gas pipelines, etc;
  • increased demand for economic growth; and
  • insufficient use of existing energy systems in the sense that the effective generation of electricity in the COMESA region is less than the installed capacity (which is around 35,000 mega watts) by 20 to 30 per cent due to drought, lack of maintenance and rehabilitation and also general system losses of electricity which include transmission, distributions are higher than average of 12 per cent, among others.

It is, therefore, imperative to develop the regional energy infrastructure in order to address the energy deficit of the COMESA region. Development of regional energy infrastructure entails that the compendium of priority energy projects be identified and a master energy plan be developed and adopted in order to facilitate the development of prioritization criteria to be used to rank the regional projects in the compendium of priority projects.

The estimated cost of energy projects which have been identified in the COMESA compendium of priority infrastructure projects (which includes energy) is about US$ 15 billion.

Development and adoption of medium to long term energy master plan whose main thrust is to assist the COMESA region achieve establishment of a joint energy strategy and priority investment plan and to mobilize public and private capital for its implementation, would definitely facilitate the development of regional energy infrastructure.

The energy master plan will culminate in the preparation of energy demand forecast, in addition to, the identification of alternatives for future inter-connectors; electricity generation power plants; regional oil and gas pipeline projects; refineries and storage facilities; regional renewable energy projects; and energy conservation and efficiency projects. It will further culminate in the preparation of least cost energy expansion plan and criteria set up to identify the most appropriate funding mechanism for prioritized projects. It will also culminate in the identification of priority interconnection projects for funding by the COMESA Infrastructure Fund and also the interested co-operating partners.

In response to the above, the COMESA Secretariat has developed a detailed draft Terms of Reference (TOR) for a regional energy master plan. Moreover, the Secretariat has been exerting efforts to mobilize resources from co-operating partners to assist in financing the study on development of the COMESA energy mater plan. In this respect, many potential donors were approached and it is hoped that an interest for financing be confirmed.