South African electricity utility Eskom has finalised a draft African strategy, which could result it in taking equity as well as operational positions in generation and transmission projects in the rest of the continent, with its primary focus being opportunities in Southern Africa.
CEO Brian Dames says that strategy is currently being canvassed with government, Eskom’s sole shareholder, and that the utility’s role in the rest of the continent will be clarified through that process.
However, the board and the executive were of the view that Eskom should consider playing a direct role in the African electricity sector, including as an equity participant in projects.
“We have not made any firm decisions around this, [but] hydro provides unique opportunity for us and we certainly believe that the Mozambican projects [Mphanda-Nkuwa and Cahora Bassa North Bank], are quite far advanced.”
Until recently, Eskom has been importing around 1 500 MW from Cahora Bassa, but supplies have been reduced to around 900 MW, owing to a technical fault. Work is currently being undertaken to restore imports to previous levels, but the restoration process is likely to take some months yet.
Eskom is already active as an operator of the power system for Senegal, Mauritania and Mali and the generation system in Uganda, but the future priority areas will probably be within the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The SADC offers “significant future opportunities”, particularly in securing “cleaner forms of energy”, such as in natural gas and hydroelectricity.
“We also have this vision that you can build all these projects and connect them with a significant transmission network . . . [and] Eskom has built up unique capabilities to design transmission networks, to build them and to operate them in an integrated grid,” Dames explains.
Eskom’s African strategy is emerging as Africa’s heads of State are moving to support a pipeline of 15 energy projects, with a combined price tag of $40.5-billion, to foster further economic growth.
The projects form part of the larger Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (Pida) portfolio, which has been assembled under the New Partnership for Africa’s Development banner and include four transmission corridors, nine hydropower schemes and two energy pipelines.
The Pida projects have been earmarked for development between 2012 and 2020.
The transmission projects included are the North-South Transmission link, from Egypt to South Africa, with branches mostly into East Africa; the Central Corridor, from Angola to South Africa, with branch lines into Central and West Africa; a North African Transmission Corridor from Egypt to Morocco, with links through Libya, Tunisia and Algeria; and the West African Power Transmission Corridor, linking Ghana to Senegal, with branches.
The nine hydroelectric projects include the Great Millennium Renaissance Dam, in Ethiopia; the Mphanda-Nkuwa project, in Mozambique; the Inga hydro projects, in the Democratic Republic of Congo; the hydropower component of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase 2; the Sambangalou project, on the Gambia river; the Kaleta II, in Guinea; the Batoka Gorge project, on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border; the Ruzizi III project, in Rwanda; and the Rusumo Falls development, being pursued by Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
The two pipelines listed are the Uganda–Kenya petroleum products pipeline and the Nigeria–Algeria gas pipeline.
The energy projects have been prioritised in line with an African Union aspiration to raise energy access across the continent to better than 60% by 2040.