PLUG IN SOLUTIONS

Tanzania 2014 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Felchesmi J. Mramba, Acting Managing Director of Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO), on tackling power shortages, diversifying the energy matrix, and developing new projects.

Felchesmi J. Mramba
BIOGRAPHY
Felchesmi J. Mramba is Acting Managing Director of Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO)

How do you plan to ensure consistent and plentiful electricity in the coming years?

For the past three years, we have been facing frequent power shortages. The key reason is that investment in our country's energy system was based on hydropower generation. Over time, we have seen the importance of diversification, and now employ various types of generation. The kind of power mix that we are considering for the future involves natural gas, hydropower, coal, and renewables. To start with, we have decided that with the completion of the gas pipeline from the south to Dar es Salaam, we should generate sufficient power to address the issue of power shortages while awaiting further energy sources. We are placing great emphasis on the gas pipeline because it will bring gas capable of generating up to 3,900 MW. Our current shortage is being addressed through liquid oil, which provides around 350 MW. Production of 300 MW and 500 MW would address most of our current shortfall. However, we intend to generate enough power such that even if hydropower contributes nothing, we would still have sufficient power from natural gas.

How will the restructuring of TANESCO into three distinct arms help it emerge from debt, fund new projects, and meet the energy requirements of Tanzania's economy?

We are considering establishing three separate companies for generation, transmission, and distribution. The generation company will also make room for other sector players to participate. A more open generation sector will enable the participation of independent power producers (IPPs) in power generation. In turn, greater private sector participation will relieve the government somewhat when it comes to related generation-related investment. We believe that the transmission segment should remain exclusively in government hands. Meanwhile, in terms of distribution, there will initially be one company, with a view to opening up the sector at a later date.

How will new technologies allow you to produce more electricity and meet your goal of doubling capacity?

We are mostly looking at green and renewable technologies. Around 80% of Tanzanians live in rural areas and extending the national grid to all such areas presents notable difficulties. In those areas we believe the national grid might not cover within the next 10 years, we are turning to solar power. We are also considering the construction of further hydro plants to exploit available water resources in various parts of the country. If a small hydro plant that provides electricity for 3,000 people is viable, more such facilities can be built at different locations. This will reduce the pressure on TANESCO to extend the national grid. We are also considering mini-grids dedicated to an area not necessarily connected to the main grid, and that are fed by different sources.

How does TANESCO plan to ensure that the economy has adequate electricity capacity to grow at a rate of over 7% per year?

Once we had confirmed the presence of sufficient natural gas resources, we formulated the Natural Gas Utilization Policy. It stipulates a greater use of natural gas in power generation but, as we progress, we shall slowly generate more power from other sources—especially coal. We are also confident that natural gas has greater potential than simply being a fuel for power generation. It will not be economical to burn natural gas for power generation given the presence of other sources like coal, abundant in Mozambique. We plan to set out with a program of natural gas-fuelled power generation to last around a decade, and, thereafter, gradually increase the use of coal. We are also talking more about clean coal and a greater use of renewables. Tanzania has considerable renewable potential; a large stretch of the Rift Valley has geothermal and wind potential. The Rift Valley acts as a wind tunnel and is, thus, ideal for the many wind projects located there. We are also exploring possible geothermal projects along the valley. Solar energy is also a plentiful resource to be tapped in Tanzania. So, with many opportunities for power generation, we will start by generating more from natural gas, and then slowly diversify into coal, renewables, and hydro-electricity. We have an unexplored, untapped hydro potential of more than 5,000 MW, although hydro is a capital and time intensive option. Hence, such projects are long-term in nature.