Electricity Service?: Not Yet True For South Sudan

"...non-governmental organizations and even government are shifting to electricity based solar panels. It looks like solar energy systems can make relatively good business in Juba and other areas in South Sudan."

By Ater Yuot Riak, Ph.D

The basic requirement of any country’s sustainable economic development is access to abundant and reliable electricity supply. A country without access to proper electricity service for her economy is described as floating. Electricity is a prime mover of any economy, without it, factories do not operate, modern equipment such as computers may not function.  Furthermore, health institutions cannot perform their duties at day/night times, students cannot do their home work at day/night times as well.

Electricity improves quality of living standard both in urban and rural areas. By powering offices, schools and household appliances we ensure comfortable working place for staff. Outdoor and street lighting provide safe movement and reduce criminal’s activities at night times.

However, lack of access to financial capital is the most challenge facing government of South Sudan to establish sustainable electricity supply. Overall country’s security remains a priority if not the extreme requirement to all sustainable economic development.

Electricity is produced by South Sudan Electricity Corporation from thermal sources, with diesel being the only avai­lable fossil fuel used for electricity generation. There is no strategic reserve fuel stock to facilitate emergency stockpiling. This represents a number of limitations in terms of lar­ge investments and restrictions in coverage – currently only 1% of the population, including the government, have access to intermittent electricity supplies.

There are 3 small diesel generation units installed in Juba, Wau and Malakal with maximum capacity of 17 MW, 8 MW and 5 MW respectively. There are also other small-scale diesel generators installed in Rumbek, Bor, Yambio and Renk.

The current total operational capacity is less than 20 MW with only 17,000 customers connected to 3 localized distribution networks. Electricity is strictly supplied to industrial or commer­cial users in which there is no transmission grid existed, except that which is operating in Northern Upper Nile State to only supply electric power to central oilfield facilities.

Due to common breaks of electric power and shortage of diesel, citizens, commercials users, health centers, schools, non-governmental organizations and even government are shifting to electricity based solar panels. It looks like solar energy systems can make relatively good business in Juba and other areas in South Sudan.

Initially and according to the United Nations, there are levels of the quantity of electricity required to meet our daily basic needs.

–      First, Base level (50-100 kWh):

This electricity is used to supply basic needs such as cooking, heating, lighting, communication, healthcare and education

–      Second, Productive Level (500 kWh):

 This energy is used to improve productivi­ty for instance, water pumping for irrigation, fertilizer manufacture, mechanized tilling, agricultural pro­cessing, cottage industry, and transport fuel

–      Third, West Level (2000 kWh):

Standards of those living in the West required to number of domestic ap­pliances, increased demands for cooling and heating (space and water) and private transportation

–      Unclassified Level (16 kWh):

Standard use in South Sudanese to meet daily basic needs per person. This quantity of electricity is insufficient and substantially less than neighboring countries to meet the basic needs.

The following are recommendations to be considered for sustainable electricity generation and supply in South Sudan:

–      Incorporate other primary energy sources to the electricity mix and support the government plan to divert some crude oil into electricity generation

–      Identify hydropower sites to construct dams for electricity generations and water irrigation system

–      Attain and promote the further possibility of ob­taining international funding and expertise with which to build the electricity sector and incorporate renewable energy

–      Develop an electricity sector which can be well-inte­grated with neighboring grids so that the coun­try can become a net electricity exporter

–      Also allow for the import of electricity which ser­ves to facilitate access and the security of electri­city supply

If such electricity is produced via renewables (predomi­nately hydropower) then more quantities of crude oil could be exported, strengthening its position as a net energy exporter and using profits to fur­ther develop and integrate other types of infras­tructure connections with other countries. In addition, and for all above, any electrification project is harmonized across the various govern­ment levels and non-governmental bodies – from the city and municipalities to the counties down to the Payams and Bomas.

Development of energy policy should launch renewable based energy policies to either pro­tect or take advantage of the country’s rich resourc­es in a sustainable manner. Despite holding sizable quantities of oil, South Sudan is facing a severe energy access crisis with only 1% of the population able to access mains electricity. Diesel oil is currently the principal provider of ener­gy but is far from a sustainable or practical option. Renewable energy resources are plentiful with hy­droelectricity providing 24453 GWh, biomass, biogas and waste 9134 GWh collectively, and solar energy capable of supplying electricity up to 4183 TWh.

Large-scale infrastructural develop­ment should be one of the country’s top priorities particularly expansion of electricity provision. This needs to be done via an increase generation, transmission and distribution of sustainable and reliable electricity.

The target num­ber of customers receiving electricity is hoped to go from 22,000 to 48,000. Installed capacity is likewise expected to rise from 27.4 to 96.4 MW. The aim is to increase power supply to state capitals to 50 MW from the 2010 baseline of 30 MW.

Ater Yuot Riak, Ph.D

Leading Energy Expert

E-mail: ateryuot@outlook.com

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