This year’s theme for World Water Day on 22 March is “Water and Climate Change”, exploring how the resource and the global phenomenon are linked inextricably.
“It isn’t just about managing our water sources so everyone has access to clean drinking water, it is also about husbanding the resource so we can keep on using it as an energy source,” says Theresa Smith, conference producer of the upcoming Small Scale Hydro Day at African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa.
She adds: “people across Africa often baulk at the creation of large scale hydro projects because they can have a negative effect on the downstream ecosystem. Small scale hydro projects, more often than not though, are installed in smaller rivers or streams with a much lesser to negligible environmental impact.”
World Water Day, a UN initiative, is celebrated on 22 March every year and focuses on the importance of water in global society.
Gathering water and hydro experts
Water and hydropower are always key topics and discussion points at the annual African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa in Cape Town, which has been moved from 12-14 May 2020 to 24-26 November 2020 due to the Coronavirus. The conference will bring together experts from public and private sectors, project developers, investors and technology providers.
The 3-day water conference will focus on “Shaping a Water Secure Future: Meeting our Universal Water Sustainable Development Goals”.
But it is the current excitement about small scale hydro in the renewable generation sector that has also led to the event organisers putting together an entire day dedicated to its potential, current success stories, innovations, advances in hydro-powered mini-grids and a very practical guide to developing a small hydro plant.
Says Theresa Smith: “Why devote an entire day to small scale hydro? Setting up a small scale hydro-powered plant is not an exercise predicated on creating massive engineering projects, which are prone to budget and time overruns and they are mostly considered as low risk in terms of technology failures. These particular projects are backed by private finance, this is where the quick wins exist.”
Speakers, moderators and panelists on the Small Scale Hydro Day programme, will include:
Anton-Louis Olivier, MD, REH Group, Board Member for Africa of the International Hydropower Association and award-winning project developer:
“There is a marked increase in the urgency of decarbonising the global power sector. More and more banks and investors have stopped financing coal and in some cases all fossil fuels for power projects. There is also a recognition that this decarbonised power sector needs hydropower as well. Not just large hydro, but also pumped storage hydro and small hydro. In Africa the hydropower resource is still largely underdeveloped, which means that there are still lots of technically good sites available. This is therefore a golden opportunity for the development of sustainable hydropower in Africa.”
Wim Jonker Klunne, renewable expert, hydropower pioneer and founder of Hydro4Africa will chair the Small Scale Hydro Day:
“During the last year or so, I clearly see increasing interest from the investor community in the smaller scale projects. There seems to be an understanding that small scale, locally embedded projects can be of interest as well. There is a need for patient capital that is willing to be invested for a long time before returns can be expected. Recently I see more and more investors willing to look into this. They are very aware of the long tenure required, but willing to go that route as they clearly see the associated impacts at local level.”
Sebastian Surie, Regional Head Africa, Climate Fund Managers, South Africa:
“Only do hydro if you really have a track record; it is a complex technology and investors will be looking at the developer’s experience. When a project is too small you will be looking at 100% equity solutions, which are not always readily available; consider aggregating small projects to attract traditional project financing, though realize that this is challenging. Whatever the size, each project typically requires the same amount of work.”
Carole Rosenlund, Head of Africa at the International Centre for Hydropower, Norway:
“Africa’s hydropower sector has already felt the effects of climate change through the recent heavy rains and droughts witnessed across the region. Droughts affected water availability and flow volumes thereby reducing generation capacity, affecting energy planning and resulting in power outages and load shedding. For us to harness hydropower’s full potential, we need to be bold and dare to explore innovative technologies that tackle new and existing challenges.”
Andy Eaton, Head of Sales Africa, Latin America & Oceania for Gilkes Hydro:
“The untapped potential in Africa for small hydro is massive and the need is great for small scale off grid development for rural communities. Developers and lenders need to continue to work closely together. The GET FiT Programmes in Zambia and Uganda are providing guaranteed Tariffs for Renewable Power Development, which assists the governments in the implementation of its renewable energy feed in tariff, which will help to open up the market for small hydro schemes.”
Bo Barta, researcher and promoter of small scale hydropower:
“I am very optimistic about renewable energy technologies’ suitability to be adopted on the African continent generally, specifically for Southern Africa, in a combination of intermittent wind and solar with the baseline and storage providing hydropower. However, the fair balance between the development of the intermittent and base-line resources has to be observed.”
Click here to read the full interviews with these expert speakers.
Water Project and Industry Leader of the Year
Meanwhile, the industry and public can now nominate a person, project or organisation in the water industry that has made a difference in the sector during the past year for the African Power, Energy & Water Industry Awards.
Now in its eighth year, the awards evening takes place during African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa, and gathers 800 of Africa’s most renowned water and energy industry professionals for a glamorous gala dinner, networking and recognition. This year the organisers have decided to open up the nominations for the two water categories, namely Water Project of the Year and Water Industry Leader of the Year. Nomination forms can be downloaded from the event website.