Renewable energy is key to socio-economic development

19th March 2015
Nat Bowers

According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Swaziland’s vast renewable energy resources could be leveraged to provide substantial socio-economic benefits for its population. Swaziland Renewables Readiness Assessment estimates that bagasse, a by-product of the local sugar industry, could meet half of all domestic electricity demand while solar power could contribute substantially to the remaining demand.

More than 76% of Swaziland’s current electricity supply comes from imports, predominantly from South Africa. Electricity import tariffs in Swaziland doubled between 2009 and 2012 and are expected to continue this upward trend. Combined with the falling cost of renewable energy technologies, this makes renewable energy more cost competitive than ever before.

“Renewable energy is no longer just the best choice socially and environmentally, it is also the best choice economically for many countries in many parts of the world,” said Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General, IRENA: “It has never been cheaper for Swaziland to reduce its electricity costs, increase its energy independence and improve energy access through the rapid deployment of renewable energy.”

Roughly 45% of Swaziland’s population does not currently have access to electricity. The report estimates that the country’s solar resources, combined with the falling cost of solar PV, could bring electricity to more people through the deployment of decentralised solar PV systems. 

Swaziland forms a key link in the African Clean Energy Corridor, IRENA’s initiative to meet Eastern and Southern Africa’s growing power needs sustainably and with a high share of renewables. As Swaziland is interconnected with Mozambique and South Africa, it could potentially use this existing infrastructure to develop more renewable energy than is needed for the country and sell its surplus power, moving it from an electricity importer to an electricity exporter.

Renewables Readiness Assessments (RRAs) offer a holistic evaluation of conditions for renewable energy deployment in a country, and outline the actions necessary to further improve these conditions. The Swaziland RRA recommends the country undertake various measures to support the implementation of renewable energy, including: extending existing tax credits to the sugar industry to incentivise investment in more efficient equipment for bagasse-based power generation; conducting a detailed assessment of the economic potential of bagasse and solar resources; creating an enabling environment for renewable energy independent power producers; and developing a comprehensive grid code, amongst other recommendations.

“The RRA has been a useful tool for Swaziland as we embark on a domestic renewable energy programme,” said Jabulile Mashwama, Minister of Natural Resources and Energy, Swaziland. “The RRA has assisted the Ministry in identifying renewable energy technologies that are ready for development and have potential for investment. The assessment also assisted in providing guidance and prioritisation on those technologies that require further investigation.”

Since 2011, more than 20 countries in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific Islands have undertaken the RRA process with IRENA to accelerate the deployment of renewable technologies domestically.

The Government of Swaziland and IRENA co-organised a workshop in Ezulwini to launch the Swaziland RRA and bring partners together to discuss implementation. Representatives from the Government of Swaziland, IRENA, the Swaziland Electricity Company, the Swaziland Electricity Regulatory Authority, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Programme, the African Development Bank, the World Energy Council, World Bank, the private sector and research institutions are in attendance.

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