Hydropower plants provided for half of growth of RES capacity in Africa
Africa facilitated the commissioning of hydro power plants based on the renewable energy sources (RES): in 2021, the incremental RES capacity in the region made 2.2 GW, and in 2022 – 2.7 GW according to the newly published annual review by IRENA. Almost half of this growth – a bit less than 1.3 GW – was provided by hydro power plants (HPPs), the remaining 1.4 GW fall on the solar panels (1 GW), wind generators (0.3 GW) and geothermal units (0.1 GW).

The photo is sourced from orfonline.org

Ethiopia made the main contribution to the growth of HPPs capacities, when it commissioned the first two generators 375 MW each at Hidase Dam. The project stipulates for the construction of eleven generators more 400 MW each, and after this construction is completed Hidase Dam will become the major hydro power complex in the region. In its turn, Zambia finished the construction of the fourth and the fifth hydroelectric installations within Kafue Gorge Lower project with its total capacity making 750 MW (with account of the generator units commissioned in the preceding years). The project was implemented with participation of Sinohydro Corporation from China and contributed to decreasing the energy shortage in the country: according to the Energy Sector Regulating Council, the shortage of the generating capacity in 2020 in the country was 810 MW.

The growth of the solar power plants’ (SPPs’) capacity was provided mainly on account of Angola, which commissioned 284 MW SPPs, as well as Mali (140 MW), Tunisia (102 MW), Kenia (89 MW) and Egypt (61 MW). As we can see, there is no clear geographical link: among these countries we can see the ones from the North of the Continent and the ones from Sub-Saharan Africa. Rather, it is convenient to use solar panels for stand-alone generation, while diesel generators are still widely used for these purpose across the region: for example, in 2021, their share in the African electricity generation mix was 9%, while in the global mix they made only 3%, according to Ember research centre.

The major regional project in wind generation was Soetwater with 147 MW capacity implemented in South Africa, and in geothermal generation – Kenia power plants Oklaria I and Oklaria V, where three energy units were commissioned in 2022. Thanks to that, Kenia was able to nail down its position in the top-five global leaders from the standpoint of the installed capacity of geothermal power plants (832 MW), coming after the USA (2,762 MW), Indonesia (2,074 MW), Philippines (1,590 MW) and New Zealand (926 MW).

Over all, the share of RES in the African electricity generation mix grew from 22.9% up to 23.6%. However, despite the growth of the clean energy accessibility, the energy shortage in the region remains, and engaging major industrial consumers may play an important role in overcoming this shortage. “The presence of major customers assures investment and reimbursement of development costs. If the electricity is used only by households, it will be impossible to reimburse the project costs. Nobody will finance such project if it is not targeted towards the “correct” customer”, Abel Didier Tella, General Director of Association of Power Utilities of Africa stated at the conference “Regional to Global: Africa”.


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March 2023