Africa HEP projects could help close the energy gap that has been quantified in a World Bank report that has recently declared 25 of the 54 nations on the continent to be in energy crisis since energy development has not kept pace with rising demand, placing a huge strain on the continent’s existing resources
In order to enjoy sustainable economic development not only for large industrial concerns but also for rural economic activity in the form of small cottage industries and agricultural development Africa’s energy gap needs to be closed. For too long energy in Africa has remained a scarce commodity with nearly 70 percent of its people lacking access to electricity and condemning many to live below the poverty line. This is despite the potential that developing Africa HEP projects holds. Just to show how far behind Africa is, Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, generates only 28 gigawatts of power, roughly equal to the generation capacity of Argentina.
Africa has a feasible HEP project potential of 1,750,000 GWh/year of which only 4.3% has been exploited to date.
In addition to inadequate power generation, approximately a quarter is unavailable at any given time because of poor infrastructure reliability and insufficient capacity.
There is no doubt that electrical power essential if Africa is to emerge from under-development and take its place in the global economy. This fact was further reaffirmed by the focus placed on the issue by President Obama’s recent trip to Africa in which he laid out his plan for boosting aid to Africa by promoting the electrification of countries in the continent. The plan seeks to develop up to 10 GW of electric power capacity — or 20 million households — in Africa. The plan specifically names Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania.
Hydroelectric power a solution
Hydroelectric power or (HEP) offers a largely untapped source of energy in the middle of the continent. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Sudan, Nigeria, Guinea, Angola, and Mozambique all have significant hydroelectric resources, of which only 7percent are presently developed.
Of the 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, 21 have a total generation capacity less than 200 megawatts. South Africa alone generates 45percent of the continental total, followed by the North African countries at 30percent and the rest of the continent at 25percent. Of that energy, approximately a quarter is unavailable at any given time because of poor infrastructure reliability and insufficient capacity.
Worldwide, hydropower plants produce about 24 percent of the world’s electricity and supply more than 1 billion people with power. Environmental concerns have seen the World being skeptical in supporting huge hydro projects in the past. But this is not the case anymore.
This is evident in the case of Inga falls project where it has shown interest in joining the African Development Bank and the Development Bank of Southern Africa in funding the project.
In the meantime, Chinese banks and construction companies have not been left behind. China Development Bank (CDB) has invested at least US$2.4billion in African infrastructure and commercial projects. There are also an estimated 800 Chinese corporations doing business in Africa, most of which are private companies investing in energy sectors to power and run their establishments.
With financing unblocked, hydro power could be Africa’s way out of its predicament and prrof of this is in the several projects that have been initiated.
DR Congo plans to build the Africa’s biggest hydroelectric project at the Inga falls on the Congo river in the Bas-Congo province, about 230 km downstream of Kinshasa. The first phase, dubbed Inga III, will on its own generate more power than Africa’s current largest hydroelectric-dam, the High Aswan on the Nile in Egypt.
According to the Congolese Minister of Water Resources and Electricity, Bruno Kapandji Kalala, construction works will take approximately six years. The project, the total cost of which is estimated by the AfDB at US $12 billion, would generate 4800 MW, more than half of which will be sold to South Africa.
Inga III, which is the first phase of the far more ambitious Grand Inga project, is one of the New Economic Partnership for African Development’s (NEPAD) flagship projects. It will involve huge works. First of all, part of the flow will be diverted upstream of the existing Inga I (351 MW) and Inga II dams (1424 MW) to a presently dry valley which runs parallel to the Congo riverbed.
Further phases would involve the construction of a dam which would entirely bar the course of the Congo River and divert most of the flow towards the Bundi valley and Inga III, whose 100 meter-high wall would enable the production of more electricity by additional turbines, up to 39,000 MW.
The capacity of the project would be almost double what is currently the world’s largest hydroelectric project, the Three Gorges dam on the Yangze Kiang River in China (22 500 MW). The ultimate aim, according to AfDB plans, is to build interconnections or “power highways” from Inga across the entire continent – not only to Southern Africa but also to Egypt, Nigeria and Ethiopia which ranks second after the DRC in terms of African hydropower potential.
Ethiopia dam building program
Elsewhere, Ethiopia has unveiled plans to invest in a new hydropower project in a bid to become an electricity powerhouse in the wider East African region. The country has contracted Italian engineering company ELC ElectroConsult to undertake prefeasibility and feasibility studies for the Tams hydropower project.
The project, the latest in a stream of mega hydropower projects the country is implementing, will have a capacity of 1, 060 MW. The planned Tams hydropower project will be built on the in the Baro-Akobo river, between the towns of Bonga and Gambella, some 766 km west of the capital, Addis Ababa. ELC ElectroConsult will partner with State-owned Water Works Design & Supervision Enterprise (WWDSE) to undertake the studies for the project.
ELC ElectroConsult, whose core activity is the study, design, construction and management of dams, hydraulic structures and hydro- electric and multipurpose projects, is not a newcomer in Ethiopia, having undertaken several projects, including the supervision of the Gilgel Gibe I and II hydroelectric projects. It is currently supervising the ongoing Gibe III and Grand Renaissance dam projects.
The award of the contract came days after Ethiopia and Egypt settled a simmering confrontation over the 6,000MW, US$4.8billion Grand Renaissance dam, which is being constructed on the Nile River.
Over the next decade, Ethiopia aims to invest a staggering US$12billion in power projects that will generate 20, 000 MW enabling the country to achieve energy sufficiency and export to neighbouring countries.
Kafue Gorge hydro power project
In Zambia, ZESCO the country’s power utility has said it will invest part of the US$255 million Euro bond funds released by the Government as seed money, to kick-start construction of the 750 MW Kafue Gorge lower hydro power project.
The company will use US$186 million out of the US$255 million given by the Government to embark on the long awaited project in Southern Province. Managing director, Cyprian Chitundu said the remainder of US$69 million would be used to finance work in progress aimed at improving power supply to residential areas. The Kafue Gorge lower hydro power project will be completed by 2017.
The Regional Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project
The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved US$340 million funding for the 80MW hydroelectric project for the people in Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania, as part of the Great Lakes regional initiative.
The mega project to be undertaken in Rwanda is an 80 megawatt hydroelectric power station which will be in the Kagera River located at Rusumo Falls on the border with Tanzania, near the town of Rusumo, 117 kilometres southeast of Kigali, the capital and largest city in Rwanda. Transmission lines will extend from the power station to Gitega in Burundi, Kigali in Rwanda and Nyakanazi in Tanzania.
The Regional Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project, which has a total cost of US$468million aims to boost reliable power supply to the electricity grids of the three countries, reduce electricity costs and promote renewable power.
The Bui Dam
In Ghana, the 400 MW Bui Hydro Electric Project is about 92 percent complete and in the final stages of construction. Dry and wet tests, which were to verify proper, complete and satisfactory erection of all the subsystems for the first generating unit 3 were carried out and successfully completed in April 2013. The Bui Dam, cutting across the Black Volta, will be the second largest Hydro-electric project in Ghana.
Bujagali Hydropower Plant
In October 2012, Uganda’s President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, inaugurated the 250MW Bujagali Hydropower Plant. The plant, constructed at a cost of approximately US$900 million, was jointly funded by Industrial Promotion Services (IPS), the infrastructure and industrial development arm of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, Sithe Global Power LLC (USA), a company majority owned by Blackstone Capital Partners IV, L.P., a fund managed by Blackstone on behalf of its investors, and the Government of Uganda.
It has eliminated Uganda’s previous energy shortage by nearly doubling the country’s effective generation capacity (it currently meets 49 percent of the country’s energy requirements) and provides clean, reliable power at lower costs than existing power generating facilities.
Construction of the plant commenced in August 2007. It comprises five units of 50MW each, commissioned in phases between February 2012 and June 2012. Dr. Kevin Kariuki, the head of Infrastructure in the Aga Khan’s industrial promotion services, says the Bujagali Energy Project (BEL) is performing beyond expectations. For the first year they expected to provide an availability of 95percent. Today they are providing 98-99percent.There are even months like February where they reached 100percent.
Bujagali represents one of the largest privately-funded power sector investments ever made in Sub-Saharan Africa and sets a unique precedent for public-private partnerships. The plant will be operated by Bujagali Energy Limited (BEL), a company established by the project partners to operate and manage the plant, for a 30 year period, following which it will be transferred to the government of Uganda for a nominal price of US one dollar.
Museveni has also launched the construction of a new dam on the White Nile. The Karuma Hydropower dam will cost US$1.4billion and will be constructed by the Chinese company, Sinohydro Corporation. The dam is expected to produce 600MW for Uganda’s national grid.
Ruzizi III project
The US$689million Ruzizi III project consists of the construction of a 147 MW Hydropower Plant on the Ruzizi River bordering DRC and Rwanda to be developed through a concession by a private investor. It will become operational in 2016. Ruzizi III will be the third hydropower development on the river following Ruzizi I (29.8 MW) and Ruzizi II (43.8 MW). Ruzizi I and II are operated by a tri-national company (Burundi, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo) owned by the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries. The consortium is also planning for Ruzizi IV dam.
If eventually built, Ruzizi IV will be positioned between Ruzizi II and Ruzizi III and is projected to operate at more than 200 MW.
The US$2 billion 1,500 MW Mphanda-Nkuwa project, in Mozambique, will supply energy both to Mozambique and South Africa. Hydropower components of the Lesotho Highlands water project Phase II, will supply power to Lesotho and South Africa.
Other ongoing hydro projects in Africa are; Batoka Gorge for a 1,600-MW scheme downstream of Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, the proposed 32-MW Jiji and 17MW Mulembwe hydroelectric projects and a related transmission line in Bururi Province, the 64-MW Mount Coffee hydroelectric project in Liberia, Malawi’s 160 to 370MW Kholombidzo hydroelectric project on the Shire River, Cameroon’s 30MW Lom Pangar hydroelectric project, Gambia’s 128MW Sambangalou and 240MW Kaleta hydroelectric projects and 1,677 kilometers of transmission lines in Africa’s Gambia River Basin, Morocco’s turnkey construction of the 45MW M’dez and 125MW El Menzel hydropower projects on Morocco’s Sebou River among many others.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) says the Africa will require more than US$300 billion in investment to achieve universal electricity access by 2030. According to a recent survey by Ernst & Young, 44 percent of businesspeople in Africa identified inadequate infrastructure as one of the key constraints to doing business in the region. This is a clear indication that as Africa continues to grow, energy infrastructure development must top the investment agenda.