The impact of political objectives on optimal electricity generation and transmission in the Southern African Power Pool




Multi-criteria optimisation, political risk analysis, Grand Inga dam, energy security, renewable energy


Southern Africa’s electrification is at odds with United Nations goals to provide modern energy for all by 2030. Electricity planning, a crucial tool to optimally match future supply and demand, has largely focused on minimising costs in southern Africa, sometimes complemented by a discussion of a discrete set of environmental scenarios. Political objectives, although their significance is well documented, had been overlooked in Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) quantitative electrification planning research. This study created a novel geo–referenced, multi–objective linear programming (MOLP) model that combines continuous cost and carbon dioxide (CO2) emission minimisation objectives with the political goal of achieving national electricity self–sufficiency, yielding the optimal trade–off between these three objectives. It solved the MOLP for three different political risk scenarios in order to examine a further political objective. The results revealed a sharp monetary trade–off between CO2 emission reductions and national electricity sovereignty objectives in the SAPP. Furthermore, curtailing international political risks had significant consequences for trade and the optimal generation mix. While the optimal size of the frequently recommended Grand Inga dam in the Democratic Republic of Congo was considerably reduced when either national electricity sovereignty or political risk constraints were imposed on the model, solar energy shares increased significantly in both cases. This was the case especially when CO2 emissions were simultaneously curtailed. Increased technological, institutional and policy–making efforts to implement solar PV at scale would therefore imply immediate political and environmental merits for national governments in the SAPP, and present a sustainable development opportunity for the region.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...


African Development Bank. 2013. Kingdom of Swaziland – Country strategy paper 2014–2018, Centurion, South Africa: Southern Africa Regional Resource Centre. Available online:–and–Operations/2014–2018_–_Swaziland_Country_Strategy_Paper__Draft_Version_.pdf. Accessed February 2017.

Ahlborg, H., Borang, F., Jagers, S. C. and Soderholm, P. 2015. Provision of electricity to African households: The importance of democracy and institutional quality. Energy Policy 87: 125–135.

Archer, C. L. and Jacobson, M. Z. 2005. Evaluation of global wind power. Journal of Geophysical Research. 110(D12).

Bahrman, M. P. J. and Johnson, B. K. 2007. The ABCs of HVDC transmission technologies. IEEE Power and Energy Magazine, 5(2): 32–44.

Barnard, M.. 2014. SADCs response to climate change: The role of harmonised law and policy on mitigation in the energy sector. Journal of Energy in Southern Africa 25(1): 26–32.

Bhagavan, M. R.. 1985. The energy sector in SADC countries. Ambio 14(4–5): 214–219.

Bowen, B. H., Sparrow, F. and Yu, Z.. 1999. Modeling electricity trade policy for the twelve nations of the Southern African Power Pool. SAPP. Utilities Policy 8(3) 183–197.

Buys, P., Deichmann, U., Meisner, C. M., That, T. T. and Wheeler, D. 2007. Country stakes in climate change negotiations: Two dimensions of vulnerability, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 4300. .

Davidson, O. and Mwakasonda, S. A. 2004. Electricity access for the poor: A study of South Africa and Zimbabwe. Energy for Sustainable Development 8(4): 26–40.

Dijkstra, E. W. 1959. A note on two problems in connexion with graphs. Numerische Mathematik 1(1): 269–271.

Dreyfus, S. E. 1969. An appraisal of some shortest–path algorithms. Operations research 17(3):395–412.

Floyd, R. W. 1962. Algorithm 97: Shortest path. Communications of the ACM 5(6):345.

Gnansounou, E., Bayem, H., Bednyagin, D. and Dong, J.. 2007. Strategies for regional integration of electricity supply in West Africa. Energy Policy 35(8):4142–4153.

Graeber, B. and Spalding–Fecher, D. R. 2000. Regional integrated resource planning and its role in regional electricity co–operation and development in Southern Africa. Energy for Sustainable Development 4(2):32–37.

Graeber, B., Spalding–Fecher, R. and Gonah, B. 2005. Optimising trans–national power generation and transmission investments: A Southern African example. Energy Policy 33(18):2337–2349.

Green, N., Sovacool, B. K. and Hancock, K.. 2015. Grand designs: Assessing the African energy security implications of the Grand Inga Dam. African Studies Review 58(1):133–158.

Hawker, G., Bell, K. and Gill, S. 2017. Electricity security in the European Union: The conflict between national capacity mechanisms and the single market. Energy Research & Social Science 24: 51–58.

International Energy Agency. 2008. Energy efficiency indicators for public electricity production from fossil fuels. Paris, France: International Energy Agency.

International Energy Agency. 2015a. Snapshot of the global photovoltaic markets. Paris, France: International Energy Agency.

International Energy Agency. 2015b. World Energy Outlook 2015. Paris, France: International Energy Agency.

International Renewable Energy Agency [IRENA]. 2012. Prospects for the African power sector – Scenarios and Strategies for Africa Project. Abu Dhabi, UAE: International Renewable Energy Agency.

International Renewable Energy Agency [IRENA]. 2013. Southern African Power Pool: Planning and prospects for renewable energy. Abu Dhabi, UAE: International Renewable Energy Agency.

International Renewable Energy Agency [IRENA]. 2015. Africa power sector – Planning and prospects for renewable energy. Abu Dhabi, UAE: International Renewable Energy Agency.

International Renewable Energy Agency [IRENA]. 2017. Global atlas for renewable energy. Available online: Accessed February 2017.

Merven, B., Hughes, A. and Davis, S.. 2010. An analysis of energy consumption for a selection of countries in the Southern African Development Community. Journal of Energy in Southern Africa 21(1):11–24.

Milligan, M., Ela, E., Hein, J., Schneider, T., Brinkman, G. and Denholm, P. 2012. Volume 4: Bulk electric power systems: Operations and transmission planning. Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Moore, S. 2017. Evaluating the energy security of electricity interdependence: Perspectives from Morocco. Energy Research & Social Science 24: 21–29.

Natural Earth. 2017. Natural Earth large scale data. Available online: Accessed December 2017.

Nziramasanga, N., Batidzirai, B. and Rowlands, H. 2013. Regional electricity mitigation options. In Rowlands, I. H. (ed). Climate change cooperation in Southern Africa. Routledge: 102–119.

Ohiare, S. 2015. Expanding electricity access to all in Nigeria: A spatial planning and cost analysis, Energy, Sustainability and Society, 5(8): 1–18.

Ohijeagbon, O. D. and Ajayi, O. O.. 2015. Solar regime and LVOE of PV embedded generation systems in Nigeria. Renewable Energy 78: 226–235.

Resnick, D., Tarp, F. and Thurlow, J. 2012. The political economy of green growth: Cases from Southern Africa, Public Administration and Development 32(3):215–228.

Rose, A., Stoner, R. and Pérez–Arriaga, I. 2016. Prospects for grid–connected solar PV in Kenya: A systems approach. Applied Energy 161:583–590.

Sanoh, A., Kocaman, A. S., Kocal, S., Sherpa, S. and Modi, V. 2014. The economics of clean energy resource development and grid interconnection in Africa. Renewable Energy 62:598–609.

Spalding–Fecher, R., Senatla, M., Yamba, F., Lukwesa, B., Himunzowa, G., Heaps, C., Chapman, A., Mahumane, G., Tembo, B. and Nyambe, I.. 2017. Electricity supply and demand scenarios for the Southern African Power Pool. Energy Policy 101:403–414.

Sparrow, F. T. and Bowen, B. H.. 2005. The future of SAPP, WAPP, CAPP, and EAPP. 2005 Ieee Power Engineering Society General Meeting, Vols 1–3: 1825–1827.

Stearns, J. K. and Vogel, C.. 2015. The landscape of armed groups in the Eastern Congo. New York, NY: Congo Research Group.

Taliotis, C., Bazilian, M., Welsch, M., Gielen, D. and Howells, M.. 2014. Grand Inga to power Africa: Hydropower development scenarios to 2035. Energy Strategy Reviews 4:1–10.

Taliotis, C., Shivakumar, A., Ramos, E., Howells, M., Mentis, D., Sridharan, V., Broad, O. and Mofor, L. 2016. An indicative analysis of investment opportunities in the African electricity supply sector – Using TEMBA. The electricity model base for Africa. Energy for Sustainable Development 31: 50–66.

Ting, B.. 2017. Drifting into a crisis–regime resistance and stability: A case study on South Africa’s electricity system. In 1st International Conference on Energy Research & Social Science, April 2nd – April 5th, Sitges, Spain.

Trotter, P. A.. 2016. Rural electrification, electrification inequality and democratic institutions in sub–Saharan Africa. Energy for Sustainable Development 34: 111–129.

Trotter, P. A.. 2017. Discussion paper: Identifying and resolving methodological issues in previous Africa–wide electricity planning optimisation research: A comment on Sanoh et al. (2014). Renewable Energy 114PB: 1442–1446.

Trotter, P. A., McManus, M. C. and Maconachie, R.. 2017. Electricity planning and implementation in sub–Saharan Africa: A systematic review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 74: 1189–1209.

Tshombe, L. M., Ferreira, I. W. and Uken, E.. 2007. NEPAD vision and the INGA hydro–electric scheme. Journal of Energy in Southern Africa 18(4):19–25.

US Energy Information Administration. 2016. International Energy Outlook 2016 Washington, DC: US Energy Information Administration.

Van de Graaf, T. and Colgan, J. D.. 2017. Russian gas games or well–oiled conflict? Energy security and the 2014 Ukraine crisis, Energy Research & Social Science 24: 59–64.

Wadia, C., Alivisatos, A. P. and Kammen, D. M.. 2009. Materials availability expands the opportunity for large–scale photovoltaics deployment. Environmental science & technology 43(6):2072–2077.

World Bank. 2016. Worldwide Governance Indicators. Available online: Accessed December 2016.

World Bank. 2017. World development indicators. Available online:–catalog/world–development–indicators. Accessed December 2016.

Zeyringer, M., Pachauri, S., Schmid, E., Schmidt, J., Worrell, E. and Morawetz, U. B. 2015. Analyzing grid extension and stand–alone photovoltaic systems for the cost–effective electrification of Kenya, Energy for Sustainable Development 25: 75–86.

Zhou, P. P., Yamba, F. D., Lloyd, P., Nyahuma, L., Mzezewa, C., Kipondya, F., Keir, J., Asamoah, J. and Simonsen, H. 2009. Determination of regional emission factors for the power sector in Southern Africa. Journal of Energy in Southern Africa 20(4):11–18.


Additional Files



How to Cite

Trotter, P. A., Maconachie, R., & McManus, M. C. (2017). The impact of political objectives on optimal electricity generation and transmission in the Southern African Power Pool. Journal of Energy in Southern Africa, 28(3), 27–42.