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Africa’s hydropower giants

Globally there is an estimated 1,010 GW of hydro power capacity, contributing 16 per cent to global electricity generation. Africa has an estimated potential of 300 GW, and only eight per cent of this has been tapped. Hydropower represents a significant and rapidly expanding proportion of electricity production in eastern and southern Africa. Around 90 per cent of national electricity generation in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia comes from hydropower.

1. Ethiopia

The country has ambitions of becoming the ‘energy hub” within the Eastern Africa Power Pool and is listed 62nd in the world with a world share of 0.2 per cent. As at 2016, it had installed hydropower capacity of 3,813 megawatts (MW).

Ethiopia has some of the richest water resources in Africa, distributed across eight major basins with an exploitable hydropower potential of 45,000 MW. More than half of this potential is located in the Abbay and Omo river basins, where the nearly-completed 6,000 MW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the recently-completed 1,870 MW Gibe III project, are located.

2. Democratic Republic of Congo

Installed hydropower capacity is 2,472 MW while total potential is estimated at 100,000 MW. At 150 km from its mouth in DRC, the Congo river holds its greatest hydropower potential at the Inga Falls site.

The river currently plays host to 40 hydropower projects, nine of which are in DRC, including the country’s two largest: Inga I (354 MW) and Inga II (1,424 MW). Projects currently under development include 40,000 MW Grand Inga, which will cost about $80 billion (Sh8.1 trillion), with an interconnection cost of $ 10 billion.

3. Angola

A country blessed with many rivers, Angola’s hydropower potential is among the highest in Africa, estimated at 18,200 MW. This, coupled with increasing demand for electricity following years of strong economic growth and urbanisation, has placed hydropower development as a central element of the Angolan Government’s long-term vision for its power sector. The government’s aim is to substantially grow its hydropower generation capacity from its current levels of around 1,200 MW to 9,000 MW by 2025.

4. Mozambique

Estimated at around 12,500 MW, Mozambique’s hydropower potential is among the largest in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 80 per cent of that potential is located in the Zambezi Valley, which includes the existing 2,075 MW Cahora Bassa project.

Mozambique boasts 13 major river basins, and there is the potential for both strategic grid expansions via large-scale projects, and smaller-scale developments servicing off-grid population centres. Mozambique is already a net exporter of electricity to the South African Development Community countries via the Southern African Power Pool.

5. Cote d’Ivoire

Hydropower currently accounts for approximately 32 per cent of total installed capacity in Côte d’Ivoire, and is responsible for 16 per cent of total electricity generated in the country.

The country still has a vast amount of untapped resources, specifically concerning hydropower and solar generation. As at 2016, installed hydropower capacity stood at 1,267 MW while hydropower generation was 4.95 TWh.

6. Zambia

The Zambezi River is the major hydropower resource in southern Africa. Zambia’s territory occupies a larger area of the river basin, at 41 per cent, than any of the other seven riparian nations.

With the completion of the upgraded Lunzua station (14.8 MW) in November 2014, Zambia hit 2,257 MW of installed hydropower capacity, which represents 94 per cent of the nation’s total energy mix. Demand for electricity is continuing to rise at a rate of between 150 and 200 MW each year.

7. Ghana

There are 17 potential hydro sites, of which only Akosombo (upgraded in 2005 from 912 to 1,038 MW) and Kpong (160 MW) have so far been developed; their total net capacity, according to the Volta River Authority (VRA) website, is 1,180 MW.

Electricity generation in Ghana is a responsibility of the VRA, which was established in 1961. The average annual output of its two existing hydro stations (circa 5 600 GWh) is equivalent to about half of Ghana’s technically exploitable hydro capability.

8. Kenya

Kenya’s installed power generation capacity has increased from 1,600 MW in June 2013 to more than 2,200 MW currently. The country’s total hydropower potential is at an average of 7,812.70 megawatts but only 820 megawatts had been tapped by last year.

Of this, about 3,000MW is said to lie in small hydropower sources. Total length of Kenya’s rivers and streams covers 407,820 km. Total length analysed for power computation is 47,130 kilometres while the total run of the river potential is 5,937.25MW. Tana River has the highest potential of 450,000 kilowatts followed by Embu at 400,000 kW.

9. Egypt

Almost all hydroelectric generation in Egypt comes from the Aswan High Dam. The Aswan High Dam has a theoretical generating capacity of 2.1GW. However, the dam is rarely able to operate at full design capacity due to low water levels.

Egypt is classified as having a high power system size of 24,700 MW installed generation capacity in 2010 with more than 40 grid-connected plants. As of 2010, 99 per cent of the Egyptian population had access to electricity.

10. Nigeria

Hydropower has been a cornerstone of grid-powered generation in Nigeria for decades. Fifteen per cent of current power generation sources in the country are hydro based. The country is reasonably endowed with large rivers and some few natural falls.

In all parts of Nigeria, potential sites for unexploited small hydropower exist, with an estimated total capacity of 3,500 MW. A multitude of river systems, providing 70 micro dams, 126 mini dam and 86 small sites, supply a technically exploitable large hydropower potential estimated to be about 11,2500 MW. Under recent circumstances, only 17 per cent is being tapped. Compiled by Wangui Githugo

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