Saturday, March 7, 2009

Major hydro power station for Africa

Sanday Chongo Kabange, AfricaNews reporter in Lusaka, Zambia

African leaders are planning to establish a continental hydro power station to harness its huge energy potential. Country representatives attending the 20th Session of the African Hydro Symposium in Zambia said hydro energy is the cheapest and cleanest for the continent.

According to Lawrence Musaba, the Centre Co-ordination Manager for the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), Africa has a combined feasible hydro-capacity of more than 1 750 000 gigawatts (GW) per year, enough to power the whole continent but unfortunately, only 4.3 percent of this has been exploited.

The symposium heard from SAPP and the Regional Electricity Regulators’ Association of Southern Africa (RERA) that in order to deal with the regional power deficits and stop a further decline in the environment different alternative power sources have to be researched on and implemented.

One such renewable energy source is hydro energy, which involves using water to turn turbines, and in turn generate clean and cheap electricity.

With seven major river systems — Nile, Congo, Niger, Zambezi, Senegal, Orange, and Limpopo — Africa holds 10 percent of the world hydro-energy potential, but has so far exploited only a small part of its capability, the symposium heard.

RERA stressed that climate change, the quest for cleaner energy and Africa’s needs for constant power supply clearly underscore the need to boost investment in the hydropower sector while taking account of broader economic and social concerns.

The symposium, which aims at sharing experiences between government and the private sector, is intended to pool resources and step up regional co-operation in the energy sector among African countries. Cahora Bassa is currently one of Africa’s biggest hydroelectric stations, producing an estimated 2 500 MW.

The DRC has a vast hydropower potential of more than 100 000 MW. About 44 000 MW of that is found at the Inga Falls and over 56 000 MW at other sites scattered across the country.

Other hydropower projects in Southern Africa include Kariba — shared between Zambia and Zimbabwe — Kafue Gorge in Zambia, Kidatu in Tanzania, Maguga in Swaziland and the Bethlehem power project in South Africa, among others.