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Southern African electricity ... keeping up with developments

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Paul Miller - 24 October 2022

The dynamic nature of the current Southern African electrical power landscape is undoubted - the rate of change is now head spinning.

While the rest of the countries of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) have spent the last decade steadily weaning themselves from their dependence on South Africa's Eskom - by interconnecting their transmission grids with their neighbours, building multiple small power plants of all kinds and trading power across the SAPP - South Africa has finally hit breaking point and effectively deregulated its own electrical power generation market.

In South Africa new renewable energy project announcements are being made at a steady clip - as industrial and mining companies commission their own behind-the-meter or wheeled power projects. The emphasis has firmly moved from the stuttering and centrally planned Renewable Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP) to independent Commercial & Industrial (C&I) projects.

There has never been a single source of electrical geo-spatial information across the SAPP, unless you were lucky enough to work for an organisation that could afford to employ several GIS professionals, and spend a fortune on top-end GIS software packages, to research and consolidate the data for you. And now there is no longer a central authority keeping a tally of what projects are coming down the road in South Africa either.

AmaranthCX had released a map of the Southern African Power Pool earlier in 2022. It was a map produced using Google's mapping products. It proved popular with project developers, financiers, professional services providers and business development managers of all kinds - generally people more comfortable with Google Maps than expensive, professional GIS packages.

But the sheer amount of information has been flowing so fast and furiously that releasing occasional snapshots of the landscape, on a simple mapping tool, has been overwhelmed and a new solution was required. We needed a cloud based solution that could be constantly updated as new information was released. A solution that could be used on any device by non-GIS specialists. Something subscription based so that it could be continuously updated in the background.

AmaranthCX has teamed up with 1Map to create AmaranthMaps - a platform for useful African maps of all kinds. The Southern African Power Map is our first project - which we are rushing to publish as the subject matter is so topical at the moment - and in the knowledge that we can continue to add to, improve and refine the data in the background.

Here is a gallery to give a flavour of what the map is about.

The map currently includes;

  • All 12 countries of the Southern Africa Power Pool

  • 3240+ existing and proposed substations of all kinds

  • 750+ existing power stations and advanced projects > 1MW

  • SAPP transmission grid

    • All existing transmission lines > 132kV (stylised)

    • Proposed new transmission lines > 132kV (stylised)

  • South African energy environmental applications & approvals

  • Eskom CLNs - Customer Load Network areas

  • SA's strategic transmission corridors and renewable development zones

  • All South African farm and farm portion property boundaries and names (in South Africa these are the primary cadastral unit)

  • All South African environmentally sensitive areas (from proclaimed national parks to specially protected landscapes)

  • Aerial photos for South Africa

  • The information rich Openstreetmaps as the default base layer

We have used our judgement when determining which power generation projects to include in the data set. Many announced generation projects in the SAPP don't necessarily progress beyond the flashbulbs at the signing ceremony. In South Africa we included all the preferred bidders in the REIPPP rounds and those C&I projects that have announced the actual location and the funding arrangements, or have a credible project developer involved. Outside of South Africa projects are included when the funding arrangements for the project are clear and the precise location is known. A signing ceremony and public announcement of a project is not necessarily enough.

You can access the subscription page here.

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