The Deluge of Hydropower in Africa

By Dylan Gansen

When someone thinks of the landscape of Africa, images of the vast Sahara, the dry savannah, or even towering pyramids towering over desert landscapes may pop into their head.  So they may be a little shocked to be informed that over 80% of Africa’s non-fossil fuel electric power is sourced from hydropower.  The sub-Saharan region of Africa currently uses 100 GW of electricity but is projected to require 385 GW by the year 2040.  Hydropower supplied about a quarter of the regions power last year and it is hoped that it will maintain that ratio even as the demand nearly quadruples over the next 22 years.  This means that more dams will need to be constructed in Africa’s abundance of bodies of water.  

It will be a difficult task to take on because, like other renewable energy methods such as wind and solar, hydro has an expensive installation cost.  It is further complicated by the lack of centralized government in a region that is occupied by many nations that can’t afford these costs.  Fortunately, the waste produced and maintenance costs remain relatively low, even when compared to solar and wind.