Hydropower uses moving water to generate electricity. As a continent rich in lakes and rivers, Africa has great hydropower potential. Tapping into this potential could lead to great developments. Using this renewable source of energy would mean cleaner and cheaper energy for the continent. There are some signs that certain regions in Africa are already on their way to becoming more dependent on hydropower. However, there is still a lot of untapped potential across the continent.
There have been many hydropower developments across African countries. For example, Morocco, Cameroon and Liberia have just recently approved and constructed the building of hydropower plants across their water resources. There are also several other countries that have joined the hydropower revolution. For example, 3 hydropower projects were completed in Sierra Leone in 2016. These plants generate 5 megawatts (MW, which is equal to 1 million watts of energy).
There has also been more sharing and co-operation in the strive to improve energy access across the continent. Transmission interconnectors (links which allow the transfer of electricity across borders) and shared ‘power pools’ is helping Africa share out resources and power.
As a country blessed with many rivers, Angola has one of the highest amounts of hydropower potential across Africa. There has also been an increase in electricity demand following years of strong economic growth and urbanisation. As a result, hydropower development has been important in the Government’s long-term vision in the energy sector.
Most hydropower plants in the country are located on the Kwanza river (the country’s largest river). This includes the Capanda plant which generates 520 MW.
The Kwanza river is also home to several other hydropower projects either under construction or in the planning stages. For example, the Laúca project began construction in 2012 and started operations in July 2017. It is the largest civil engineering project that has been undertaken in Angola.
In late 2016, the Bank of China signed an agreement with the Angolan Government. This agreement provided a loan to finance the construction of the Caculo Cabaço hydropower project. This project is expected to take over 6 years to build and will contribute towards the power supply security of the domestic market. There are clear attempts by the Angolan government to increase the dependency on hydropower.
Hydropower currently accounts for around 16% of total electricity in the country. However, there are still a number of untapped resources. Côte D’Ivoire’s government have stated that the country’s growing power demand is likely to be met with more gas-fired generation and hydropower. However, this expansion is likely to be mainly driven by the private sector of the economy (part of the economy not under state control).
The Ivorian Government have identified 66 projects that will need significant investment from the private sector. However, there is a lot of foreign investment in these projects!
Some of Côte D’Ivoire’s largest hydropower facilities include: the Buyo Dam (165 MW), Kossou Dam (174 MW) and Taabo Dam (210 MW). However, there are many others. There are also a number hydropower projects under construction.
The country is certainly on the way to reaching its plan for developing the electricity sector by 2030. Also, they currently export electricity to Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Liberia, Mali and Togo.
In 2011, Ethiopia introduced the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE). CRGE looks to harness cleaner energy sources, including hydropower. With the Growth and Transformation Plan I, the country quadrupled installed capacity by installing large hydro developments. Hydropower is set to make up about 90% of Ethiopia’s power supply by 2020.
Ethiopia is rich in water resources and there are 8 major basins across the areas. Some of the biggest hydropower plants (both in construction and in operation) include the Gibe III project and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Installed hydropower capacity is currently at 3,813 MW.
Just recently, the PowerChina Huadong Engineering Corporation completed improvements of Ethiopia’s oldest hydropower plant. This plant was constructed in 1941 and generates about 6.6 MW. With these advancements, Ethiopia may achieve their ambition of becoming the ‘energy hub’ within Eastern Africa.
This country has great hydropower potential, however a lot of it is untapped. Hydropower currently contributes towards around 30% of total installed power capacity.
The Tanzania Rural Electrification Expansion Project was approved by the World Bank in 2016. This project gave 200 million USD in funding from the International Development Association and aims to provide energy to 75% of the country’s population by 2035 (it is currently 41%).
Recent projects in Tanzania include the Tulila hydroelectric plant on the Ruvuma River in southern Tanzania. Since 2015, it has been generating 5 MW of renewable electricity to the remote Ruvuma region. The Kikonge project located on the Ruhuhu River is currently in the planning process. It is expected to generate around 300 MW of energy.
The country is also working on expanding transmission lines. These should help to establish power connection and supplies with other countries across Africa.