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SEFA Elevates Hydropower Modernisation as an Accelerator of Africa’s Energy Transition


The African Development Bank-managed Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA) has showcased hydropower as a key element of meeting the accelerating demand for renewable energy at the Africa Energy Forum held in the Kenyan capital.

The Africa Energy Forum took place in Nairobi from 20-23 June, organised by Energy Net with support from the Government of Kenya, the African Development Bank, IFC and other partners.

A session titled ‘Hydropower Modernisation to Accelerate Africa’s Energy Transition’ posited that renovating existing hydropower infrastructure represents a compelling opportunity. This is because greenfield hydropower projects have high upfront costs, and significant environmental and social impacts, leading to long lead times before they come onstream.

African Development Bank Director for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, Dr, Daniel Schroth, who moderated the session, said: “Modernising existing hydropower assets are accelerator for Africa’s energy transition and it increases the availability of dispatchable renewable energy in a relatively short period of time while providing opportunities for integrating variable renewable energy sources, such as floating solar.”

The event also marked the launch of a flagship report entitled “Africa Hydropower Modernisation Programme: Continent-wide Mapping of Hydropower Rehabilitation Candidates.” The report was produced by the African Development Bank under SEFA’s Africa Hydropower Modernisation Programme (AHMP) in collaboration with the International Hydropower Association (IHA)(link is external) under the SEFA’s Africa Hydropower Modernisation Programme (AHMP)(link is external), The report offers a comprehensive assessment of what is needed to modernise hydropower infrastructure across Africa and paves the way to advance the continent’s renewable energy generation.

Eddie Rich, CEO of the International Hydropower Association(link is external), said, “The potential for hydropower modernisation in Africa is significant and is a relatively easy way to deliver much needed access to electricity and clean water. We encourage governments to incentivise sustainable hydropower development and modernisation through financial and market mechanisms that reward flexibility, accelerate the development of renewables through streamlined permitting and licensing, and embed hydropower sustainability practices in government regulation.”

The report found that out of the 87 hydropower stations screened, 21 are in high need, and 36 are in medium need of refurbishment, representing an installed capacity of 4.6 GW and 10 GW, respectively, for modernisation. To address these modernisation needs, SEFA prioritises providing technical and financial support to these projects while coordinating closely with partner institutions for additional support.

“The Africa Hydropower Modernisation Programme along with this landmark report, paves the way for accelerating investments in Africa’s ageing hydropower fleet. Hydropower modernisation is not just about upgrading infrastructure — it’s about decarbonising and enhancing the flexibility and resilience of power systems, critical ingredients for a successful energy transition” said João Cunha, Head of SEFA at the African Development Bank.

The event also featured an interactive panel discussion with key stakeholders including Matteo Bianciotto, Senior Policy Manager at the International Hydropower Association(link is external); Marcelino Gildo Alberto, Chairman and CEO of Electricidade de Mozambique(link is external); Atinuke Taiwo, Executive Director & General Counsel at Mainstream Energy Solutions(link is external); Eluma Obibuaku, Senior Vice President and the Head of Power at Africa Finance Corporation(link is external); and Angela Nalikka, African Development Bank Division Manager for Public Private Partnerships & Advisory. 

Source: African Development Bank Group

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