Africa’s Hydro Power Potential Underutilised – Experts

While many African states grapple with insufficient electricity, more than 90% of the continent’s hydro power potential remains unutilised.

The Bujagali hydroelectric power station at the Bujagali Falls in River Nile.  Skilled workers are in shortage at Uganda's new Sh.4.3 trillion ($1.7billion)  project Karuma under construction
The Bujagali hydroelectric power station at the Bujagali Falls in River Nile. Skilled workers are in shortage at Uganda’s new Sh.4.3 trillion ($1.7billion) project Karuma under construction

Uganda, whose electrification rate stands at less than 15%, sits on 3,000 Megawatts hydro capacities, according to John Rao Nyaoro, the Executive Director of the Nile Basin Initiative. Nyaoro says that 15 billion cubic metres of the Nile water is unutilised.

The minister of energy and Mineral Development Irene Muloni and other speakers at the 26th African Hydro Symposium in Jinja attribute the underutilisation on mainly financial constraints.

Muloni said on Monday that Hydro power requires high initial investments that most African governments can’t afford. She added that more finances are required for compensation of people that occupy areas where the plant is supposed to be constructed and funds for the construction of transmission lines.

The chairman of the Uganda Association of Consulting Engineers, Michael Daka, in the paper he presented said that African countries have failed to utilise hydro power to its potential because of a combination of constraints.

He says that Africa will continue to fail at using what he calls the cheapest and cleanest source of energy because of lack of financing and scarcity of hydro power professionals.

Minister Muloni said that governments need to prepare by putting in place financial policy measures and build capacity by training people and encouraging them to provide goods and services during construction.

Daka agreed with Muloni saying that there is need for deliberate government support in terms of building capacity, and financing hydro power. He also said that African governments should allow for free movement of labour for hydro professionals stressing the need for “engineers without borders.”

Muloni said that government reviewed its power plan in 2010 and resolved to make hydro power the number one priority.

Government is fast-tracking the construction of three hydro power plants – Isimba, Karuma and Ayago to supplement the existing Nalubaale, Kira and Bujagali dams.

Hydro contributes more than 700 of the 800 Megawatts produced in the country currently.

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