Scarcity in abundance: the challenges of promoting energy access in the Southern African region

Abstract: The paper deals with the challenges of energy access, efficiency and security as essential conditions to improve people's living in the Southern African region. It supports energy policies by providing material for an integrated assessment of alternative energy systems at national level. Taking the example of Namibia, the paper applies the Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism (MuSIASEM) approach to assess the energy systems and scenarios. Using historical data from 2000 through 2013, the authors initially characterize energy supply and demand conditions of Namibia. Subsequently they conducted simulation analyses to find out a desirable energy policy to promote energy access in Namibia through 2030 under various environmental and societal constraints. The simulation results reveal that sustainable energy access in remote areas can be better achieved by small-scale distributed renewable energy systems rather than by large-scale energy technologies. Moreover, the study shows that energy policies should adopt a broader perspective to face the challenges of sustainable energy access in countries of the Southern African region by designing alternative development pathways rather than focusing on implementing new energy technologies.