SEFA Commences Hydropower Overhaul in Sudan, DRC

African Development Bank's SEFA Launches Initiative to Modernize Aging Hydropower Infrastructure in Africa

by Adenike Adeodun

The African Development Bank, through its Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA), is embarking on a transformative initiative to modernize ageing hydropower infrastructure across the continent, beginning with pivotal projects in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

SEFA’s Africa Hydropower Modernization Programme (AHMP), acting as a comprehensive solution provider, is set to overhaul African hydropower facilities, boosting their reliability and operational flexibility. Key projects include enhancing the cooling water system of Sudan’s 280 MW Roseires plant to minimize disruptions and replacing outdated electromechanical components at DRC’s 60-year-old Lubilanji 1 plant with a capacity of 7 MW.

Marking a significant milestone, the AHMP received a substantial grant of $9.72 million on November 21, facilitating the programme’s expansion. This expansion aims to modernize a selection of 12 private-sector-led hydropower projects across eight countries, chosen through a competitive process. These efforts are expected to unlock an additional 570 MW of capacity, attracting around $1 billion in investments, including substantial private sector contributions.

Additionally, these projects are projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1,700 kilotons of CO2 equivalent annually, underscoring their environmental significance.

According to a report by ESI Africa, João Duarte Cunha, the Division Manager for Renewable Energy at the African Development Bank and SEFA Manager, emphasized the urgency of this initiative. “With approximately half of Africa’s hydropower assets surpassing 30 years of age, modernization using cutting-edge technologies is the most efficient way to expand clean energy capacity and support the continent’s energy transition,” he stated.

This programme aligns with the Bank’s New Deal on Energy for Africa, aiming to provide universal energy access with a focus on low-carbon solutions that leverage Africa’s diverse renewable resources. The Bank highlights that modern hydropower is pivotal in Africa’s energy transition, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and supporting the integration of variable renewable sources like solar and wind.

The AHMP, established in 2021 with a $1 million SEFA grant, seeks to increase affordable, low-impact installed capacity, improve the reliability and adaptability of African power systems, and explore hybrid solutions like floating solar PV.

In partnership with the International Hydropower Association (IHA), the programme has recently conducted a comprehensive assessment of the modernization needs and opportunities within the existing hydropower fleet across the continent.

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