24 June 2019

Examining the potential of hydropower in Sub-Saharan Africa

Options Summer 2019: IIASA researchers aimed to help policymakers develop solutions for growing energy demands in Sub-Saharan Africa.

© Blossfeldia | Dreamstime

© Blossfeldia | Dreamstime

More than half the global population without access to modern energy services live in Sub-Saharan Africa.  It makes sense, then, that this region is at the center of the ongoing dialogue around energy poverty.

The region is home to abundant natural energy resources but lacks the finance and infrastructure prerequisites to tap its resource endowment and address energy poverty. Chief among these is hydropower, as there are a number of significant potential sources, including Lake Victoria and the White Nile.

In a 2018 study, researchers performed a technical assessment of small-scale hydropower in Sub-Saharan Africa. The authors hope that the resulting data will help to fill in some of the knowledge gaps and serve as a tool for policymakers as they develop solutions for the region’s growing energy demands.

“When it comes to climate resilience of a hydropower dominated electricity generation mix for East Africa, we don’t just need a plan B,” explains Holger Rogner, one of the authors of the study. “What is needed is a plan C built on B with a probabilistic risk assessment and a variety of response strategies — a kind of optimized insurance plan — that addresses how to respond to varying precipitation patterns resulting from climate change and other uncertainties.”

Written by Jeremy Summers

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Last edited: 13 June 2019


Holger Rogner

Emeritus Research Scholar Integrated Assessment and Climate Change Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

Options summer 2019

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