Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Kenneth Strzepek

Second Advisor

Paul Chinowsky

Third Advisor

Adam Schlosser

Fourth Advisor

Channing Arndt

Fifth Advisor

Ross Corotis


While electricity demand is rising quickly in the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), the nations involved struggle to build the necessary infrastructure to meet the demand. In addition, the principal member--the Republic of South Africa--has made ambitious targets to reduce emissions via renewable energy technology. In this dissertation, three stand-alone studies on this subject are presented that address the future reliability of renewable energy in southern Africa, considering climate variability as well as long-term trends caused by climate change. In the first study, a suite of models are used to assess the vulnerability of the countries dependent on resources from the Zambezi River Basin to changes in climate. The study finds that the sectors most vulnerable to climate change are: hydropower in Zambia, irrigation in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and flooding in Mozambique. In the second study, hourly reanalysis data is used to characterize wind power intermittency and assess the value of interconnection in southern Africa. The study finds that wind potential is high in Kenya, central Tanzania, and southern South Africa. With a closer look, wind power resource in South Africa is unreliable (i.e. intermittent) and is weak when power demand is highest on all relevant time-scales. In the third study, presented in Chapter 4, we develop a risk profile for changes in the long-term mean of wind and solar power sources. To do this, we use a statistical relationship between global mean temperature and each local gridded wind speed and solar radiation from the GCMs. We find that only small changes in wind speed and solar radiation are predicted in the median of the distributions projected to 2050. Furthermore, at the extremes of the distribution, relatively significant changes are predicted in some parts of southern Africa, and are associated with low probability. Finally, in the conclusion chapter, limitations and assumptions are listed for each of the three studies, South Africa's options for reducing emissions are revisited, power trade and interconnection are discussed broadly, and future research is suggested.