The International Energy Agency states that electricity access rates in Africa will grow to 59% in 2030 and about 607 people, which are 90% of the world population without access to electricity in 2030, will live in the region.
This also means that the economy of the region will be starved of energy due to inadequate access to electricity from insufficient power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure.
Due to the inadequate installed capacity, there is low energy consumption and access, as a result, the commercial sector is forced to use expensive generators. These generators serve as the backup power supplier and sometimes the only source of electricity.
Deploying a generator for manufacturing has huge impacts on the cost of the production cost, making businesses to operate with much higher running costs, compared to their competitors elsewhere.
The power sector in Africa has been receiving attention from both national and international players, resulting in huge investments. However, much more effort is needed, it is estimated that to adequately boost power access, more than $ 40.8 billion dollars is needed.
Governments cannot fill this gap, hence the government-private partnership is required to provide substantial funds under long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs).
Small Hydro Power’s Potential in Africa
Small hydropower refers to the generation of power from a water source on a small scale, usually not more than 10MW.
For rural electrification, Small Hydropower is described as the most effective energy scheme. The technology is known to be environmentally friendly, and long-lasting for about 50 years or more, with little maintenance.
Other benefits of this technology are that the chances of it being vandalized are low, there is a reduction in transmission losses, reduction in illegal connections to the grid, there is an abundance of resources which are untapped, it emits low Green House Gases (GHG) and is regarded as a clean renewable energy source. It also has the potential to create jobs and encourages energy diversification hence enhancing energy supply.
Small Hydro Power Plants are efficient for rural areas and stand-alone electrification. They produce electricity at a lower cost, between 0.02Kwh and 0.05 Kwh USD.
Africa has more than 10,000 potential sites for small hydropower (SHP), with an estimated generation capacity of 3421MW.
Development of a Small Hydro Power Plant
The development of SHP can be divided into site assessment, civil works activities, and electro-mechanical development. The site assessment involves conducting feasibility studies which include the hydrological, geological and topographic study of the resource (river). This will establish the economic viability of the site. Later, the selection and sizing of the hydro turbine and generator are carried out based on the capacity of the water body obtained from the study.
Inadequate Deployment of SHP
The Huge SHP resource in Africa is insufficiently tapped. This has been limited by the lack of technological capacity; insufficient funds; ineffective framework and regional trade agreements, inappropriate power generation and distribution policies, unreliable hydrological data of potential sites and lack of political will.
Improving Development of SHP
China has a successful SHP model that can be adopted by Africa to develop the Small Hydro Potential in Africa. There is a strong need to build capacity in order to improve the current SHP skill deficit. There is also the need to develop manufacturing infrastructure to support domestic manufacturing of SHP components and systems.
The other thing which needs to be done is to encourage the execution of projects through government-private partnership scheme and also enacting policies which compel power firms to provide funds for research and development of Small Hydro Power Plants.
Globally, SHP has been identified as environmentally friendly, cost-effective and a simple renewable power scheme suitable for rural electrification. Developing of SHP parts locally is likely to lower SHP project costs and improve power access in the region.
@ Bandhiga Media