Cyclone Idai, a tropical storm that ravaged through Mozambique in recent days, has compromised energy security in the SADC region, says Energy Forum Zambia (EFZ).
Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, a coastal country, leaving around 1,000 people feared dead, according to that country’s President Filipe Nyusi.
The storm made landfall near the port city of Beira last Thursday with winds of up to 177Km/h, but aid teams only reached the city on Sunday, BBC reports.
In a statement issued, Monday, EFZ chairperson and energy expert, Johnstone Chikwanda stated that the tropical cyclone’s devastating movement through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe in recent days had uprooted the electricity transmission network, which has compromised the region’s energy security.
According to Chikwanda, Beira is host to one of Mozambique’s leading fuel terminals.
“The damage to infrastructure within Mozambique and Zimbabwe is petrifying! The electricity transmission network in some cases has been uprooted, thereby, disrupting electricity supply within Mozambique and electricity exports. As of now, we are not yet sure the impact the storm has had on the Beira fuel terminal, but fuel transportation challenges to other countries has been reported. The Beira fuel terminal supplies fuel to Zambia, DRC, Zimbabwe and Botswana, among others fuel terminals,” Chikwanda stated, adding that about 900MW of power exports to South Africa has been cut off due to collapsed transmission lines in Mozambique.
“900 megawatts is a lot of electricity! Almost half of Zambia’s consumption and more than national consumption capacity in some countries, such as Malawi and Namibia, to mention but a few. The loss of electricity supply into the SAPP (Southern Africa Power Pool) is of concern to the energy security within the region. The region is still grappling with a state of energy poverty. With a loss of 900MW from the grid, the impact will be felt in the region in one way or another, directly or indirectly. It must be noted that while the 900MW is for export to South Africa, South Africa also exports electricity to a number of SADC countries, such as Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, eSwatini and Botswana, among others.”
Chikwanda further explained that there is also electricity trade between Zambia and South Africa.
“Just before Cyclone Idai wickedly uprooted the electricity infrastructure in Mozambique, South Africa was battling electricity supply challenges from its own power plants. The recent challenge has led to loading shedding, which in some cases escalated to stage 4 load shedding. Stage 4 load shedding is severe in that it allows the utility to shed 4,000MW from the national grid (4,000MW is almost double Zambia’s consumption). Therefore, the loss of 900MW of imports from Mozambique will compound the situation not just for South Africa, but also for other SADC countries as well,” he cautioned.
“Energy is the life blood of the economy. Therefore, without adequate supply, productivity gets hampered which in-turn could affect economic activity. The devastating impact of this cyclone has served a chilling reminder of what climatic variability is able to do and an opportunity to evaluate our vulnerability assessment and resilience capacity,” stated Chikwanda, who also stressed that what happened in one country’s energy sector had the potential to affect neighbouring countries as well.
SAPP, whose member-states include Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, among others, was initiated in a bid to accelerate electrification and regional integration.
However, despite making some notable investment progress in the energy sector, the SADC region still remains one of the regions with a very low electrification rate.