Small hydropower in Southern Africa – an overview of five countries in the region

Wim Jonker Klunne

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27 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper looks at the status of small hydropower in Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. For each country, an overview will be given of the electricity sector and the role of hydropower, the potential for small hydropower and the expected future of this technology. Small hydropower has played an important role in the history of providing electricity in the region. After a period with limited interest in applications of small hydropower, in all five countries, a range of stakeholders from policy makers to developers are showing a renewed interest in small hydropower. Although different models were followed, all five countries covered in the paper do currently see activities around grid connected small scale hydropower. Particular frameworks that facilitate IPPs and Power Purchase Agreements with the national utility do provide a basis for (local) commercial banks to provide finance. Off-grid hydropower for rural electrification purposes sees activities in the countries with an active (support) role of government in this respect only. Small hydropower, renewable energy technology has large potential across the southern Africa region, both for grid connected and off-grid applications. Historically, small hydropower played an important role in the development of the region. Since the mid-1960s, however, the main emphasis has been on centralised fossil fuel-based electricity generation. Developers and policy makers have only recently begun looking at small hydropower again.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-25
JournalJournal of energy in Southern Africa
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • METIS-300838
  • IR-88651


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