Climate Change

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Fast Facts: Energy Use, Rivers and Climate Change in Southern Africa

Climate Change

  • A recent report for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (December 2009) noted that climate change already accounts for over 300,000 deaths throughout the world each year. The Human Impact Report: Climate Change – The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis notes that “climate change today seriously impacts the lives of 325 million people. In 20 years that number will more than double to an estimated 660 million, making it the biggest emerging humanitarian challenge in the world, impacting on the lives of 10% of the world’s population.  Economic losses due to climate change already amount to over $125 billion per year. This is more than the individual GDP of 73% of the world’s countries, and is greater than all aid that currently flows from industrialised countries to developing nations each year. By 2030, economic losses due to climate change will almost treble to $340bn annually.”

  • UK government researcher Sir Nicholas Stern predicts that a 3-6 degree Celsius increase in temperature in the next few years will result in a 30% to 50% reduction in water availability in Southern Africa; a 15% to 35% cut in agriculture production across Africa, and 300m more people at risk of coastal flooding each year.

Electricity in South Africa

  • 95% of electricity used in South Africa (to 6,5m consumers – industry and households) and 85% of electricity in Africa is from Eskom, the world’s fifth largest electricity supplier.

  • South Africa could save 3,000 MW in the next four years by making the existing system more efficient,” says Mark Borchers, Director of Sustainable Energy Africa (SEA), a Cape Town clean energy group. It says filling the gap through energy efficiency could cost less than a fifth of the price tag for new coal-fired power plants. A new coal-fired station costs about US$1.6m per megawatt (MW) while energy efficiency measures would cost 15-20% of that resulting in $343 000 saved per MW.  SEA cites an Australian study that says energy efficiency supports eight times the number of direct jobs per unit of energy compared with coal mining and power generation. Programmes to train energy auditors and contractors (to install insulation, low-flow shower heads, lighting and solar water heating) can and should be intensified, SEA says.

  • Price of electricity in SA went up 27% in June 2008 and 31,3% in 2009 (1 July 2009 to 31 March 2010), but is still among the lowest-cost electricity in the world. (From National Energy Regulator of South Africa [Nersa]) “Successful energy efficiency is connected to efficient pricing in order to communicate accurate signals of the value of resources being consumed.” (From “Energy Efficiency in South Africa”, Eskom)

  • Eskom plans to spend over $33.5 billion over the next five years on new and upgraded power supply projects. South Africa’s treasury agreed to provide guarantees for World Bank and African Development Bank loans to Eskom for $5 billion and up to $1.5 billion, respectively. Specific projects have not yet been targeted, but the loans will likely support multiple coal and other new power stations outlined in Eskom’s five-year program.

  • Eskom is currently the main beneficiary of Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique, and is expected to be the main beneficiary of Mphanda Nkuwa Dam if it is built. The company also owns or operates a number of hydro dams outside its borders.  

  • South Africa implemented a national energy efficiency strategy in 2005 and established a national agency in 2006.  Eskom has a Demand Side Management (DSM) program, which includes energy efficiency. In 2008, Eskom committed just $56 million to DSM, or “less than 1% of its annual new-build budget,” says Mark Borchers, Director of Sustainable Energy Africa (SEA).

  • Since 2004, South Africa has mandated the labeling of appliances according to energy efficiency.

  • SA’s efficient lighting programme began in 2004, and has resulted in more than 18 million CFLs replacing less-efficient incandescent globes.

  • In December 2008 the SA government said it had retrofitted (installed energy conservation measures) 4 000 buildings at a savings of R44,24m (US$5.6 million) a year in electricity costs.
  • The SA government has a target of 10 000GWh to be produced from renewable energy sources by 2013, and has devised “feed-in tariffs” to support various renewables.

  • South Africans used 2% less electricity in July 2009 as compared to the same month in 2008, according to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA). The estimated seasonally adjusted electricity consumption was 5.3% lower in the first seven months of 2009 compared with the first seven months of 2008. (From "Electricity generated and available for distribution", Stats SA)

Dams and Rivers in Southern Africa

  • The Lower Zambezi is vital to the national economy in Mozambique. Under more natural flow conditions, the annual ebb and flow of Zambezi floodwaters supports extensive flood-recession agricultural systems along the length of the Zambezi. This provides more reliable food security than rain-fed agriculture.

  • The river also sustains productive freshwater fisheries, coastal prawn fisheries, and healthy grasslands with a very high carrying capacity for large herbivores in the Delta. Over the past 50 years of river regulation, these systems have all declined precipitously. The Zambezi is one of the most heavily dammed rivers in Africa, with more than 30 large dams already constructed throughout its basin. Dam-induced ecological changes to the river (especially from the huge Cahora Bassa and Kariba dams) have brought great hardships to the people and wildlife of the Zambezi basin, especially in the lower Zambezi valley of Mozambique. For 25 years, erratic and mistimed flooding below Cahora Bassa Dam has adversely affected the living standards of hundreds of thousands of downstream households and decimated one of the most productive and diverse wetland ecosystems in Africa, the Zambezi Delta.

  • Significant work is underway to restore the lower Zambezi by improving how water is released from Cahora Bassa1. There is widespread scientific opinion that the restoration of regular, annual, modest flood releases – timed to coincide with the historical period of peak flooding – would improve these and other systems, providing important socio-economic and ecological benefits. These efforts could be undermined by construction of Mphanda Nkuwa, just downstream of Cahora Bassa.

  • Although millions depend on the Zambezi River for their livelihoods, the Mozambique government – with funding from China and construction by a Brazilian dam firm –proposes to build the US$2 billion Mphanda Nkuwa Dam2 60 km downstream from Cahora Bassa Dam. Proponents hope Mphanda Nkuwa will help attract energy-intensive industries to Mozambique, but for the foreseeable future, much of its electricity will be exported to South Africa.

  • Mozambique’s rural poor are in desperate need of electricity, but due to the high cost of extending the transmission grid, this dam will not contribute significantly to rural electrification.

Energy Innovations in Other Countries

    Germany spends aroundUS$30bn each year on solar energy

  • The US government has reaped a 40-to-1 return on its efficiency investments.

    In 1974, 75% of California’s energy came from oil and it had plans to build 20 nuclear power stations. Facing a public backlash, it instead introduced higher prices and better energy policies directed toward saving energy; the state now saves US$16bn a year in energy with an average saving of $1 000 per family. Every $1 invested by California in efficiency measures has saved customers more than $2. The state’s refrigerator standards alone have saved 40 000 megawatts of electricity – the equivalent of 80 coal plants. California’s energy reduction programme generated 1.5m jobs worth $45bn in payroll between 1972 and 2006.

    Japan has strict regulations for energy conservation which has helped it boost the efficiency of refrigerators by 55%, air conditioners by 68% and computers by 99%. It also set energy-efficiency targets for its biggest industries, and today its industries are among the most efficient in the world. Japan’s steel industry now uses a third less energy than it did 30 years ago. “If the global steel industry adopted Japanese conservation measures, it could reduce carbon emissions by some 300 million tons a year,” reports the New York Times.

  • Switching to compact fluorescent light (CFLs) bulbs can reduce electricity for lighting by 75%. Brazilian rebates on CFLs has resulted in the installation of more than 48m of these bulbs. Namibia, Ghana and Uganda distribute free CFLs. Ireland, Switzerland, Cuba and Venezuela have begun to phase out or ban incandescent bulbs.

Pull Quotes from A Renewable Energy Plan for Mozambique

by Mark Hankins (available at

  • Because of this focus on power prices and large projects (and, typically, an avoidance of addressing environmental and social costs in pricing these projects), Mozambique is missing out on critical global developments in new clean sources of energy that could benefit its population, create new industry, jobs and capacities, and bring clean power to its own population.

  • Before 2003, few incentives had been given to household and commercial users to save electricity – and this waste has contributed to a sizable portion of South Africa’s demand. South Africa has the potential to quickly reduce its own electricity consumption by an amount equivalent to 3 to 5 times Mozambique’s entire consumption!

  • As long as Mozambique’s power planners focus on the huge consumer next door, they will never adequately meet the needs of their own country, which remains largely off-grid and unconnected.

  • Obviously, a power grid supplied by numerous and varied sources is less risky than one that relies primarily on a single source – such as mega-dam hydro.

  • Mozambique has a huge and virtually unexploited solar potential. Annual incident solar radiation, distributed evenly across the country, is about 1.49 million GWh – thousands of times more than the country’s current annual energy demand.

  • Power transmission in Mozambique is an especially critical issue for the country for two reasons. First, the large size of the country and its dispersed settlement patterns make dispatching power to the entire population extremely expensive. Secondly, HCB must first export power to Eskom, which in turn sells the power back to southern Mozambique at an increased rate. There are serious technical, financial and national security implications of this. In addition, long-distance dispatching of power wastes a considerable amount of power due to line losses.

  • Transmission systems can be hugely wasteful. Africa’s power grid loses twice as much electricity during transmission as do more modern systems in other parts of the world, and those losses can equal 2% of GDP annually.

  • More than 80% of Mozambique’s population is off-grid. This group has little access to conventional electricity or modern fuels – in fact, they pay much more per kilowatt-hour of energy for the little they get than those who have access in urban areas.

  • Use of biomass electricity has the potential to generate the most jobs because Mozambique’s small and medium sized enterprises can be involved in all stages of the supply and production chain. Bagasse wastes from the sugar industry, copra wastes from the coconut industry and the other sources could enable Mozambique to quickly build up a power industry based on clean, indigenous biomass fuels.

  • Large-scale concentrating solar projects have yet to be developed in southern Africa, despite high potential (in 2009 Morocco is completing a 20 MW CSP station integrated with a natural gas power station, and Eskom has introduced feed-in tariffs for CSP). Given the relatively high resources in the region, concentrating solar has the special potential to provide a stabilizing counterbalance to hydropower during droughts. Moreover, CSP technologies are rapidly developing energy storage capacities that enable them to become firm power providers. 5000 MW of CSP is set to come on-line in the US and Spain by 2013.

  • For growing economies like Mozambique’s, putting energy efficiency programs in place early makes economic sense. Implementing serious energy efficiency strategies means that, in the future, there will be more electricity to share with those currently without access to electricity – and it will free up money to invest in other pressing needs.

For more information:
Mark Hankins – Nairobi, Kenya - Landline: 254 20 2725297

Cell: 254 722 527710 iPhone: 254 772 527710

Skype: mark_a_hankins or
Anabela Lemos - JA! Justica Ambiental, Maputo land Line +258 21 49668 cell +258843106010
Lori Pottinger, International Rivers , USA; Skype: loripottinger. Land line: 01 510 848 1155

1 For more on the restoration plan:

2 For a fact sheet on the dam:

2150 Allston Way, Suite 300, Berkeley, CA 94704-1378, USA | Tel: + 1 510 848 1155 | Fax: + 1 510 848 1008 |

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