PublicationReport A Clean Energy Vision of the East African Power Pool

March 27, 2015
Publication Type:

Build­ing Sus­tain­abil­i­ty into the East African Pow­er Pool Plan

New Study Rec­om­mends Less Hydro, More Cli­mate-Resilient Renewables

UC Berkeley’s Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Ener­gy Lab­o­ra­to­ry and Inter­na­tion­al Rivers have co-pub­lished a review of the ener­gy plan­ning and resource assess­ment efforts being done by the East African Pow­er Pool (EAPP), and rec­om­men­da­tions for its improvement.

The EAPP has the poten­tial to play a major pos­i­tive role in dri­ving ener­gy invest­ments in the region for years to come, but its heavy focus on large dams puts the region at high risk from a chang­ing cli­mate. The report rec­om­mends the EAPP shift its pri­or­i­ties to include a much greater pro­por­tion of renew­able ener­gy sources like solar, geot­her­mal and wind, and to take greater account of cli­mate risks to large hydropow­er projects.

As cur­rent­ly con­fig­ured, the EAPP will rely heav­i­ly on some of Africa’s largest hydropow­er dams, such as Ethiopia’s con­tro­ver­sial megapro­jects, the Gibe III Dam now near­ing com­ple­tion on the Omo Riv­er and the Grand Renais­sance Dam on the Blue Nile. Cur­rent­ly, about a quar­ter of elec­tric­i­ty gen­er­at­ed in EAPP coun­tries comes from hydropow­er, but future invest­ments will cre­ate a greater depen­dence on hydropow­er. The EAPP has iden­ti­fied hydropow­er projects that will almost dou­ble the EAPP’s cur­rent installed capac­i­ty; an esti­mat­ed 60% will come from Ethiopi­an hydropow­er gen­er­a­tion alone.

Too lit­tle infor­ma­tion exists about the risks to hydropow­er dams in East Africa to jus­ti­fy such a heavy growth in hydropow­er,” the authors state. The EAPP Mas­ter Plan does not include an analy­sis of the effects of cli­mate change on the region­al pow­er strat­e­gy or pro­vide any insight into pos­si­ble prob­lems asso­ci­at­ed with cli­mate change con­di­tions. The Mas­ter Plan men­tions Ethiopia’s vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to drought but makes no attempt to address the impacts of pos­si­ble droughts on the region’s economy.

Lead author Dr. Daniel Kam­men, Pro­fes­sor of Ener­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley says, “We find that the clean, non-hydro ener­gy poten­tial of the East African region is vast, and devel­op­ing it can lead to strong eco­nom­ic, social and envi­ron­men­tal­ly ben­e­fi­cial devel­op­ment. Such a plan can meet even the rapid­ly grow­ing ener­gy needs of the region, make more sig­nif­i­cant progress in increas­ing ener­gy access, and do so in a way that achieves envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­i­ty. The report devel­ops a plan that con­tributes sig­nif­i­cant­ly more diverse and vibrant pri­vate sec­tor.” The report notes that the region’s solar resource alone is suf­fi­cient to pro­vide the need­ed ener­gy resources for each EAPP nation, and that avail­able non-hydro renew­able elec­tric­i­ty sources account for rough­ly 80% of the iden­ti­fied hydropow­er projects in the EAPP Mas­ter Plan.
The Need for a Plan to Alle­vi­ate Ener­gy Poverty 

The study also looked at the impact of the EAPP on increas­ing ener­gy access among the poor. In spite of alarm­ing­ly high num­bers of peo­ple in the region with­out access to mod­ern ener­gy, the EAPP’s Mas­ter Plan does not specif­i­cal­ly pro­vide detailed plans for alle­vi­at­ing ener­gy pover­ty in rur­al com­mu­ni­ties. Although 69 mil­lion Ethiopi­ans are now with­out elec­tric­i­ty, the report finds, Ethiopia is increas­ing its elec­tric­i­ty exports from hun­dreds of megawatts as of 2014, to over 2,000 MW by 2018. In spite of these alarm­ing fig­ures, the EAPP’s Mas­ter Plan does not specif­i­cal­ly pro­vide detailed plans for alle­vi­at­ing ener­gy pover­ty in rur­al communities.

We rec­om­mend the com­ple­tion of addi­tion­al stud­ies by the EAPP to cap­ture all small-scale, decen­tral­ized poten­tial elec­tric­i­ty sources in the entire East African region in order to avoid as many large-scale hydro projects as pos­si­ble. The rea­son for this is sim­ple: mini-grids and com­mu­ni­ty ener­gy pro­grams can great­ly build local ener­gy access and eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty, and can be the ‘seeds’ of grow­ing region­al grids. This decen­tral­ized ener­gy pol­i­cy builds eco­nom­ic growth across nations, which often over­ly focus their eco­nom­ic empow­er­ment pro­grams on the cap­i­tal and large sec­ond-tier cities, not on rur­al com­mu­ni­ties that are so vital to the qual­i­ty of life across East Africa.”

The study also notes the like­li­hood of cost con­tain­ment and cost over­runs in a hydropow­er-heavy EAPP. “Hydropow­er is prone to the great­est time over­runs and the largest amount of a cost over­run (almost $1 bil­lion per project accord­ing to new work from the Glob­al Change Unit at Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty).” Wind and solar projects are much less prone to cost over­runs. The study rec­om­mends diver­si­fi­ca­tion of the ener­gy matrix to help reduce cost-over­run risks.

The EAPP is being sup­port­ed by the US Gov­ern­ment, the World Bank, African Devel­op­ment Bank, the region’s governments.

Down­load the study‑clean-energy-vision-of-the-east-african-power-pool


Kenya as the Emerg­ing Clean Ener­gy Leader 

Excerpt from the report.

East Africa has not only some of the best solar, wind, bio­mass, and geot­her­mal resources in the world, but also large­ly man­age­able urban areas and, with a few excep­tions, low pop­u­la­tion den­si­ty. This abun­dance of clean ener­gy resources and a grow­ing demand for both on-grid, mini-grid, and stand-alone ener­gy ser­vices calls for a new inte­grat­ed plan­ning perspective.

Kenya pro­vides an ide­al test-bed. A nation with a cur­rent annu­al GSP growth rate of over 5%, Kenya has visions of 5,000 MW of new on-grid capac­i­ty in only 40 months, and yet a pop­u­la­tion that is only 29% grid-con­nect­ed today.

In fact, a clos­er look reveals the tremen­dous advan­tages of a clean ener­gy growth plan for the nation. Kenya has exam­ined the resource base and is now build­ing a pow­er mix that, if accel­er­at­ed, will posi­tion the nation to have min­i­mal, if any, need for import­ed fuels, and will enable the nation to claim a major lead­er­ship place in the com­ing clean ener­gy economy.

Not only is the pow­er demand grow­ing, but cli­mate change and increas­ing demands for water mean that Kenya must meet this demand while reduc­ing dra­mat­i­cal­ly its reliance on hydropow­er. The fact that Kenya has eco­nom­i­cal­ly assessed geot­her­mal resources alone that could meet a base­load demand of 10,000 MW, or more than five times nation­al on-grid pow­er demand today, means that even if a sim­ple 1:1 replace­ment of hydropow­er with geot­her­mal was need­ed, this would be possible.

In fact, Kenya is on pace to expand its geot­her­mal pro­duc­tion from just over 500 MW to over 3,000 MW in just a few years. Geot­her­mal is today the least-cost form of on-grid gen­er­a­tion in Kenya, with costs as low at 8.5 cents/​kWh, one third of the fos­sil fuel costs. 

The geot­her­mal sto­ry in Kenya is not unique. Wind could rival geot­her­mal as a growth indus­try. New dis­cov­er­ies (such as the incred­i­bly rich wind resource at Lake Turkana).

Chal­lenges do remain, with the off-grid pop­u­la­tion and expan­sion of ener­gy pro­grams for the poor key issues (but where efforts from the grow­ing pri­vate sec­tor pay-as-you-go pro­grams of M‑KOPA, Sun­ny­Money and oth­ers are mak­ing progress).

At the indus­tri­al lev­el, how­ev­er, the expan­sion of clean, on-grid ener­gy can also bring about new indus­tri­al poten­tial. Even while tak­ing the pru­dent step to dra­mat­i­cal­ly reduce the planned use of hydropow­er, Kenya is plan­ning a new indus­tri­al cor­ri­dor built around clean geot­her­mal, wind, and solar energy.

What is tak­ing place in Kenya could also hap­pen else­where in the region.

Olkaria Geothermal Power Plant, Naivasha, Kenya

Olka­ria Geot­her­mal Pow­er Plant, Naivasha, Kenya

Ngong Hills Windfarm

Ngong Hills Windfarm

 For addi­tion­al cov­er­age, see:



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