Energy constraints have been a major setback for the South African economy, with experts maintaining that the diversification of the energy mix will contribute to greater power stability.
South Africa, like many other African countries is currently a coal-fired energy economy. However, the country has begun moving towards a greater incorporation of renewable energy, with hydropower being noted as an extremely viable renewable energy source.
Accordingly, there is a goal to source 2,600 MW of hydro-electric capacity from the Southern African Development Community region.
On the other hand, while private sector investment in the Independent Procurement Program continues to operate under uncertainty, a few local hydropower plants have recently received international recognition, marking a stamp of approval for the progress of the local industry.
Renewable Energy Holdings (REH) recently received the 2017 Monsonyi Award for Excellence in Hydropower from the International Hydropower Association. They award was presented at the World Hydropower Congress which took place in early May.
The managing director Louis Olivier said huge potential exists for hydropower development in Africa. REH is one of South Africa’s first independent power producers (IPPs) and is experienced in developing hydropower plants from the greenfield stage through to financial close.
Together with engineering company Aurecon, REH has developed and implemented three small hydropower plants: Stortemelk Hydro and, as elements of the Bethlehem Hydro Project, Merino Hydro and Sol Plaatje hydropower stations.
The Stortemelk hydropower plant, developed under a project finance structure, has an installed capacity of 4.4 MW and operates as a run-of-river power station with an estimated annual output of 28GWh.
“We are proud to have been involved in these projects, which delivered many firsts for hydropower stations in South Africa,” Bertrand Rochecouste Collet, technical director at Aurecon said. “Aurecon’s professional relationship with REH Power Development over the past 15 years has been extremely rewarding and we look forward to working with them on several new hydropower projects in the future.”
Aurecon engineer, Ross Mahaffey, who attended the 2017 World Hydropower Congress said developers face a number of challenges when implementing hydropower projects in South Africa. He added that it was crucial developers share their experiences and findings at international platforms such as the World Hydropower Congress.