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Solar Power Vastly Underrated in Region

Mar 11, 2010 - The Namibian/All Africa Global Media

THE southern African region has the highest potential in the world for the use of Solar Thermal Power (STP).

This is one of the lessons learned by some southern African parliamentarians who last year attended a conference for SADC legislators on climate change and energy access for the poor in Maputo, Mozambique.

A report on the hearing was tabled in the National Assembly last week Wednesday by Swapo MP Lucia Basson.

The MPs were told that southern Africa has sunshine 72 per cent of the time.

Namibia has an annual average of 3 876 hours of sunshine and has the largest solar energy potential in the region. Spain, where this technology has been successfully been delivering clean power for many years, has 3 000 hours of sunshine per year.

But despite this huge potential for solar energy use in Southern Africa, there are a number of obstacles to its deployment in the region.

One of this is that solar technology currently does not feature in integrated resources planning.

"Hence, there are no policies to promote its uptake. Besides, solar electricity is usually deemed not viable economically, largely because the environmental and external costs of coal-based electricity are not reflected in the current tariffs," said the report.

The MPs agreed on the importance of building capacity within southern Africa and stimulating the local production of renewable technologies, such as solar panels, instead of relying on expensive imports.

"Feasibility studies on the potential for solar thermal power should be conducted, especially in countries with the highest solar radiation levels such as Namibia, Botswana and South Africa," said the report.

The MPs who took part in the hearing were from Namibia, Malawi, Mauritius, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia.