Hydropower uses the power of moving water to generate electricity and currently contributes towards 20% of global electricity. It is a great renewable energy source and its use has many benefits. Africa is rich in rivers and lakes. The continent has great potential to rely on hydropower. There are also some downsides to using hydropower however.
- Water is a renewable source of energy which means that we can use it for a long period of time without fear of using it all up. Also, water is constantly moving and providing us with a source of energy. This means that hydropower is very reliable.
- In comparison to a number of other energy sources (like the burning of coal or natural gas), hydropower is a clean way of getting energy. It is fuelled by water and will not pollute the air.
- The advantages of hydropower are not limited to power generation. They also include water supply, irrigation (the supply of water to land or crops to help growth), navigation, fisheries and tourism benefits.
- Hydropower is a domestic source of energy. This means that countries can remain in charge of their own energy sources without relying too heavily on international fuel sources.
- The high upfront costs of building hydropower plants can often act as a barrier to their use.
- Whilst hydropower is more reliable than both wind and solar power, it is still reliant upon water. This is sometimes an issue in parts of Africa. Low rainfall and droughts may affect the amount of water available.
- In order to store water, a reservoir (a bit like a man-made lake) is formed behind a hydropower plant. This reservoir can take living space away from wildlife. It can also result in the displacement of local populations.
- Fish species are often affected by hydropower plants. Their habitats and way of life are changed. This is as a result of changing flow patterns in the water.