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Small and micro-hydro

developments in Southern Africa

by Wim Jonker Klunne, CSIR

Approximately 10% of the global hydropower potential is located on the African continent, with the majority of that in Sub-Saharan Africa.
However, only a low 4 to 7% of this potential has been developed [1, 2]. Generally, hydropower potential figures stated refer to large scale
hydropower only. For the African continent no proper statistics are available on the potential for small and micro scale hydropower. Common
understanding is that the rate of development of small and micro hydro is even lower than for large scale hydropower.

Small hydropower can play a pivotal role in of information does severely hamper the Small and micro hydropower in southern
providing energy access to remote areas possibility to learn from past experiences Africa
in Africa, either in stand-alone isolated and is a barrier to large uptake of small
Small hydropower is a proven, mature
mini grids or as distributed generation and micro level hydro on the continent [8].
technology with a long track record,
in national grids. The potential role of
Defining small and micro hydropower including in Africa. The gold mines at
small hydropower in eradicating energy
Pilgrims' Rest (South Africa), for example,
poverty has been recognised by a number At this stage no internationally agreed were powered by two 6 kW hydro turbines
of national governments and bi- and definitions of the different hydro sizes exist. as early as 1892, complemented by a
multilateral donors. Examples are the A generic distinction though is between 45 kW turbine in 1894 to power the first
new draft energy strategy for the World “large” hydro and “small” hydro. The most electrical railway [9]. In several southern
Bank, which does specifically highlight generally accepted definition of “small” African countries church missions did
small scale hydropower as an important has been set by the World Commission on build small hydropower installations, like in
component of future World Bank activities Dams, which set the upper limit for small Tanzania where church missions installed
in Africa [3], Belgian support for small hydro at 10 MW of installed capacity, more than 16 small hydropower systems
hydro development in Mozambique [4] although large countries as China and during the 1960s and 70s that are still
and EU support for a regional microhydro India tend to put the limit higher at operating [10]. Another example is large
project in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and 50 MW and 25 MW respectively. Recently scale commercial farmers in the Eastern
Malawi [5]. some international donors seem to use Highlands of Zimbabwe that installed hydro
The large knowledge base on technical a maximum capacity of 15 MW when stations as early as the 1930s [11].
aspects of microhydro in general does referring to small hydro.
Many countries in Africa do have a rich
suggest a proper understanding of the Within the range of small hydro, distinction histor y of small scale hydropower, but
technology. However, the relatively small can be made between mini hydro over time large numbers of these stations
number of small and micro hydropower (often limited to an installed capacity of have fallen in disrepair. Some because
projects implemented in the region does the national grid reached their location,
maximum 1 MW), micro hydro (below 300
not reflect the enormous potential for the some because a lack of maintenance or
or 100 kW depending on the definition)
technology, suggesting that other barriers even pure neglect. Recently initiatives have
and pico hydro (below 20, 10 or 5 kW),
than the technology itself still persist. seen the light in a number of countries
each with its own specific technical
in Africa to revive the small hydro sector,
Although small hydropower projects have characteristics. Micro and pico hydro
either through international development
been implemented in several countries installations are mostly found in developing
agencies or through private sector led
on the continent, information on the countries for energy provision to isolated
initiatives. Particular in Central Africa
current state of affairs is scattered and communities where the national electricity
(Rwanda), East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania
incomplete. To a (ver y) limited extend grid is not available, whereas mini hydro and Uganda) as well as Southern Africa
information is available on technical tends to be grid connected. Micro and (Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe) new
details of implemented projects, however, pico hydro can also differ from mini hydro initiatives are focusing on implementing
information on implementation models due to the extended possibility of using small hydropower projects, while in South
followed and their successfulness is local materials and labour in the case of Africa the first new small hydro station in
not available in most cases [6,7]. first two, while mini hydro typically involves 20 years was opened in 2009, with more
Basic technical information on existing more traditional engineering approaches under development.
hydrostations might be available, but is and will usually need for example heavy
definitely not complete nor consistent over access roads for delivery of materials and Barriers
the different information sources. This lack electro-mechanical equipment. Most of the challenges facing small
hydropower exploitation are not specific
to hydropower but generic for all types of
renewable energy and rural electrification
projects. General barriers for renewable
energy projects are the absence of
clear policies on renewable energy,
limited available budget to create an
enabling environment for mobilising
resources and encouraging private sector
investment, and the absence of long-
term implementation models that ensure
delivery of renewable energy to customers
at affordable prices while ensuring that the
Fig. 1: Farm near Sabie. Fig. 2: Friedenheim powerhouse. industry remains sustainable.

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Fig. 3: Friedenheim trash screen. Fig. 4: Friedenheim water inlet.

Looking specifically at small hydropower described projects suggests that linkages

development, the following barriers can with ongoing economic activities will
be identified: ensure proper management of the system.
Po l i c y a n d r e g u l a t o r y f r a m e w o r k : Very clearly the inclusion of entrepreneurs/
Unclear or non existence of policies and private sector developers could benefit
regulations that govern the development the sustainability of the systems, although Fig. 5: Svinurayi pelton runner.
of (small) hydropower. In some countries this does in most case also come with
hydropower developments under a requirements from the financiers of these
private developers which have shown in in operation are the Friedenheim hydro
certain threshold are not regulated at all,
the case of Rwanda a tendency to favour station (2 MW) in Nelspruit that supplies
while in other countries it might be part
developments that feed in to the national electricity to the local municipality under
of a broader regulator y framework for a PPA, the Lydenburg hydro plant (2,6 MW),
rural electrification in general. Generic grid as this ensure a steady income stream
for the enterprise. Several African countries which is owned by the Thaba Chweu Local
frameworks often lack clarity on a number Municipality and operated on their behalf
have establish renewable energy feed-
of hydropower specific issues like access by a private operator and the recently
in tariffs that support the establishment
to water and water infrastructure and the commissioned Bethlehem hydro station.
of small scale hydropower linked to the
associated payments. In the micro range a substantial number
electricity grid. For remote locations
without access to the national grid rural of systems is in operation in the KwaZulu
Financing: Hydropower developments
electrification agencies and/or funds, Natal and Eastern Cape region, primarily
are faced, even more than other sources
like in Tanzania, do provide the needed supplying individual farmers.
of renewable energy, with high up-front
costs and low O&M costs, something legislative and financial incentives for the Next to the operational plants, South Africa
most available financing models do not uptake of remote hydropower. has a few existing small scale installations
favour. Nearly all of the new developments that are currently not in operation but
To enhance the uptake of microhydro
on the continent are relying in one could be refurbished to working order, like
technology local stakeholders (private
form or the other on donor financing. Belvedere (2,2 MW), Hartbeespoort (37 kW)
sector, financial sector, government
and others [13].
Development of alternative financing entities, etc) need to be made aware of
models, including tapping into alternative the opportunities for the technology and Government support for renewable energy
funding sources, is needed to facilitate coordinated efforts need to be initiated to is governed through the 2003 Renewable
small hydro developments. get this technology thriving again. Energy White paper, which sets a target
of by 10 000 GWh of renewable energy
Capacity to plan, build and operate Situation in South Africa to be achieved by 2013 [15]. No specific
hydropower plants: National and regional In the “Baseline study on Hydropower in targets were set in this White Paper for the
knowledge and awareness on the potential South Africa”, which was developed as part different renewable energy technologies
of small hydro in rural electrification is of the Danish support to the South African and very little has been done to ensure
missing or ver y minimal. This includes Department of Minerals and Energy, Barta the countr y will reach this target. An
knowledge at political, government and [12] investigates the installed capacities update process for the White Paper was
regulatory entities, as well as knowledge on of hydropower in South Africa and the started in 2009 with support of the REMT
local production of parts and components. potential for new developments. He programme, but has not resulted in an
concludes that twice the installed capacity updated White Paper and/or target. In
Data on hydro resources: Linked to the of the present installed hydropower 2010 the Department of Energy presented
limited knowledge about the technology capacity below 10 MW can be developed the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2010),
is the lack of proper resource data on in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape, Free outlining the electricity generation mix for
water availability and flow on which hydro State, KwaZulu Natal and Mpumalanga. In the period up to 2030. According to the
developments can be based. a later publication Barta [13] does include policy adjusted development plan that
new insights in the potential of small was approved by cabinet, the countr y
Current experience and the way forward hydropower in South Africa by including the will see 17,8 GW of renewable energy as
hydro potential of water transfer systems part of the energy mix in 2030. The main
From the analysis of a number of the
and gravity fed water system and mentions source of hydropower in the IRP2010 will
current initiatives it has been very clear
a total potential of 247 MW of which 38 MW come from imported electricity (approx.
that microhydro developments need to
has been developed. 5,2 GW by 2030), while local, small scale
be embedded in a national program
hydropower shares an allocation of
for capacity building and industrial Currently approximately 40 MW of small 125 MW with landfill gas based electricity
development to foster a new industry to scale hydropower is in operation in [16].
emerge. Particular attention needs to South Africa [14], while a number of
be given to governance issues related plants are currently in advance stages In March 2009 the energy regulator (NERSA)
to hydro stations as experience from the of development. Examples of the plants announced Renewable Energy Feed-In

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Fig. 6: Tungu-Kabiri opening spillway. Fig. 7: Mantsonyane in Lesotho. Fig. 8: Svinurayi turbine.

Tariffs (REFIT) for a selected number of Water Affairs and National Treasury intent African region do see different levels of
renewable energy technologies. Small to address the small scale hydro sector small hydropower development, with
scale hydropower (between 1 and 10 MW) outside the current bidding process. particular Zimbabwe and Mozambique
qualified for a REFIT of ZAR 0m94/kWh [17]. National Treasury is currently in the process showing promising developments. An
However, unclarity around the legal status of appointing the transaction advisers overview of the full region can be found
of the REFIT and who would be the buyer for this particular task and once this is in [23].
of the electricity produced prevented completed the Department of Energy is Zimbabwe has currently a number of small
PPAs from being signed for this tariff. The expected to provide guidance on the 21 hydro plants under development, with
REFIT review in 2011 did see adjustments small dams that were identified within the the 5 MW Great Zimbabwe project the
in the REFITs based on adjusted figures National Water Resources Infrastructure for most advanced, while in Mozambique
for inflation, costs of capital and other potential hydro development. government agency Fundo National
assumptions. The REFIT for small hydro de Energia (FUNAE) is in the process of
power was revised downwards with more Situation in neighbouring countries
testing different funding models for small
than 28% to ZAR 0,671/kWh [18]. The neighbouring countries in the southern hydropower.
During the same time as the REFIT review,
the South African government announced
its intention to start a competitive bidding
process for renewably generated
electricity. Initially it was understood that
the bidding process would focus on non- TRANSDUCERS
price criteria as local content, project
readiness, job creation potential etc., with
the price set according to the REFIT rates. TRANSDUCERS WITH DISPLAY
However, when the Request for Proposals
was issued in August 2011, it became clear
that the bids would be evaluated on a two-
stage procurement evaluation process
that includes qualifying criteria based on
economic development requirements, as
well as price. This effectively side tracked
the REFIT process [19].

In the Renewable Energy Independent FEATURES:

Power Producer Procurement Programme
• Bright digital display • True RMS measurement
a total of 3725 MW is to be procured by
• Simple easy to use Interface • Seven Segment LCD Display
Government, with an allocation of 75 MW
• Quick On-Site Programming with Back Light
for small hydropower [20]. • Single or Dual outputs can be ordered
• Easy Installation
The bidding process will see a number • Convetional Screw on terminals • Accuracy Class 0.2 & Class 0.5
of bidding rounds, of which the first two • Space saving Design • RS485 Communication
have been concluded. The first round • Versatile and Multifunctional • Versatile Aux 40..300VACDC
• Free PC Software for programming • Din Rail Mounting
did not see any hydro project, while in
the second round the Stortemelk plant
(4.3 MW) and Neusberg plant (10 MW)
have been awarded the preferred bidder • Voltage Transducer RISH CON- V
status. These two plants are expected to • Current Transducer RISH CON- I
generate a total of 7 permanent jobs for • Frequency Transducer RISH CON - Hz
O&M and 261 jobs during the construction • Power Transducer RISH CON -P
phase. Expected costs per MW installed is (On Site Programmable as Active/ Ractive/ Apparent Power Transducer
approximately R45-million [21]. Sizes : 42mm - 78mm - 122mm widths
Unfortunately the recently announced
small scale projects bidding window, which TIMECOUNT (PTY)
focuses on installations between 1 and 132 10th Road, Kew, Jhb Visit us Online:
5 MW, did not include small hydropower Tel: 011 882 3105
[22]. It appears that the Department of Email:
Energy together with the Department of

energize - July 2012 - Page 77

the African Development Bank's “Lesotho
Electricity Supply Project”. A tender process
in this respect has been started in the
second half of 2011 [26].

[1] ESHA, IT Power, Small hydropower for
developing countries, (2006).
[2] Min Conf Water for Agriculture and Energy in
Africa, Hydropower resource assessment of
Africa, (2008).
[3] World Bank, Energy Strategy Approach Paper,
[4] BTC, Mozambique-Belgium Partnership,
Fig. 9: Tungu-Kabiri turbine.
[5] L Mika, Village hydro in Malawi, Mozambique
and Zimbabwe, (2009).
[6] M Pigaht, RJ van der Plas. ‘Innovative private
micro-hydro power development in Rwanda',
Conclusion Energy Policy. 37 (2009) 4753-4760.
The small hydro sector in the southern [7] EG Michael, “Institutional Design and Practices
for Sustainable Decentralised Energy Systems
African region is currently going through Development for Rural Electrification. The
a phase of revival due to the looming Case of Isolated Mini-Hydro Power Systems
energy generation crisis and the world wide Fig. 10: Tungu-Kabiri turbine and generator. Developed by Catholic Church Mission,
Njombe Diocese, Tanzania”, (2008) 122.
attention for renewable energy generation.
[8] M Gaul, F Kölling, M Schröder, “Policy and
Although only a small number of plants regulatory framework conditions for small
have been commissioned in the (recent) Bad maintenance after independence hydro power in Sub-Saharan Africa”, (2010).
past, it looks like a momentum is being led to the detoriation of the plant. In the [9] Eskom, “Eskom heritage: Electricity in South
created that can see larger uptake of the mid 1990s the plant was rehabilitated Africa - the early years,” 2012 (2009).
technology in the (near) future. with assistance of ITDG and new penstock [10] F Mtalo, “Small scale hydropower for rural
installed. development”, (2005).
Case studies [11] W Klunne, “ Hydro-power end-uses at
On the pictures the pelton turbine at the Svinurayi co-operative (Cashel Valley, Eastern
Case 1: Tungu-Kabiri, Kenya powerhouse and the pelton wheel itself Highlands, Zimbabwe)”, (1993).
[11]. [12] B Barta, “Capacity building in energy
In 1998 Practical Action, in collaboration efficiency and renewable energy. Baseline
with the Kenyan Ministr y of Energy and Case 3: Friedenheim, South Africa study - hydropower in South Africa”, (2002)
with funding from the GEF Small Grants
The Friedenheim hydro plant on the [13] B Barta, “Renewable energy: hydropower”,
Programme at the UNDP, undertook a in: Kiderlen E, Bredenkamp B, Smith L (Eds.),
Krokodil River in Nelspruit (South Africa) is an
pilot project to illustrate the potential for The Sustainable Energy Resource Handbook.
example of a hydro plant that feeds into
decentralised microhydro schemes for South Africa Volume 2. The Essential Guide,
the national electricity grid. Friedenheim Alive2green, Cape Town, 2011, pp. 139-139-
rural, off grid electrification, with the Tungu- hydro is privately owned and operated as 151.
Kabiri community 185 km north of Nairobi a commercially profitable and sustainable [14] P Kotze, “The potential of small hydropower
as a pilot project. business venture. It is owned by the plants in South Africa”, WaterWheel. 10 (2011)
members of Friedenheim Irrigation Board 18-19, 20.
The microhydro system is fed of the local [15] DME, White Paper on Renewable Energy,
and operated by MBB, an engineering
river from which water is diverted by a small (2003).
firm. The plant is equipped with two
weir. Via a canal and a penstock the water [16] Department of Energy, Integrated Resource
1 MW Francis turbines and provides power Plan for electricity 2010-2030, Revision 2, Final
is delivered to an 18 kW turbine. The cost for water pumping to FIB, but 93% of the Report, IRP2010 (2011).
of the system was $3495 / kW installed, power generated is sold to the Nelspruit [17] NERSA, NERSA decision on renewable energy
The micro hydropower plant is owned local authority through a PPA that sets feed-in tariff (REFIT), (2009).
the tariff at 12% below the price at which [18] NERSA, NERSA Consultation Paper- Review of
and managed by the community, and
Nelspruit buys power from Eskom (its bulk Renewable Energy Feed - In Tariffs, (2011).
this complete community ownership has [19] T Creamer, Nersa set to concur with DoE on
electricity provider).
been central to the project's success. The renewables bid process, but raises questions,
day-to-day operations of the plant are Case 4: Mantsonyane hydro, Lesotho Engineering News. (2011).
managed by a 10-member community [20] Department of Energy, IPP Website, 2012
Mantsonyane Hydropower Plant was (2011).
power committee, and this committee financed by a grant from Norway and [21] DoE, Announcement of Preferred Bidders of
also conducts consultations with the is located on the Mantsonyane River in the IPP Procurement Programme - Window 2,
wider community about how the power central Lesotho. The station can operate 2012 (2012).
generated from the system should be on isolated network in case this is required, [22] DoE, IPP Small Projects, 2012 (2012).
used. The electricity is currently used for but the main operational strategy has [23] W Jonker Klunne, Current status and future
developments of small and micro hydro in
microenterprises, such as a welding unit, been daily peak lopping. The station is southern Africa, (2012).
a battery-charging station and a beauty equipped with two Francis turbines of [24] E Ebrahimian, “Community Action to Address
salon [24]. 1500 kW and 500 kW, coupled to a Climate Change: Case Studies Linking
1900 KVA and a 650 KVA generator Sustainable Energy Use with Improved
Case 2: Svunaryi cooperative, Zimbabwe Livelihoods”, E.04.III.B.3 (2003).
respectively. The power station was flooded
with water in the beginning of November [25] S Grongstad,”Mantsony'ane hydropower plant
Svinurayi co-operative is an agricultural after flooding November 2006 - draft report
co-operative near Cashel valley in the 2006 and out of operation since then. The
- diagnostic study”, (2008).
Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. A hydro floods lasted throughout the three day [26] AfDB, Specific Procurement Notice Lesotho
installation was established in the 1930s, period 3rd to 5th November, 2006 and saw Electricity Supply Project, (2011).
the power fully inundated [25].
consisting of a 10 kVA pelton generator by Contact Wim Jonker Klunne, CSIR,
Gilkes coupled to a generator and maize Currently LEC is in the process of Tel 012 841-3993,
hammer mill. rehabilitating the power station as part of 

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