Mapping hydropower potential in Madagascar

16 September 2015

A World Bank-led project in Madagascar seeks to map the country’s small hydropower potential at a detailed level. Hydropower is one of the most promising sources of power for a country where a lack of domestic energy production has placed major constraints on development.

In Madagascar, national development has long been impeded by a lack of access to reliable energy. Only 15% of the population has electricity. Infrastructure is outdated, and existing generation, transmission, and distribution facilities are insufficient to satisfy growing demand.

The country has three interconnected networks with a total installed generation capacity of 544MW (1120GWh in 2013), comprising 161MW (681GWh) of hydropower and 383MW (439GWh) of thermal energy generated from heavy fuel oil (HFO) and diesel. However, only 303MW out of this installed capacity is actually operational and available, due to a lack of maintenance and poor operational performance by the national utility. This is not enough to satisfy peak demand, particularly during the dry season.

Power outages are common. Extremely expensive emergency thermal generators running mainly on diesel have been contracted by the government as a response to the insufficient supply. Yet while the country struggles to pay for this emergency oil-based thermal generation, enormous renewable energy potential remains unexploited.

Development of these untapped resources has been held back by a lack of validated data on resource potential, as well as governance issues and the financial constraints of the sector. For example, almost every region of the country has high solar concentration, with over 2,800 hours of sunshine per year. Similarly, there is great potential for wind power generation in the north and the south, with wind speeds reported around 7m/s. However, very few small solar and wind projects have been developed to date.

Madagascar also has significant hydropower potential, particularly in the eastern part of the country, which exhibits suitable topography and rainfall. The country currently has 11 major hydropower plants in operation, of which most function as run-of-the-river plants and three have a regulation capacity (reservoir). The hydropower potential of the country has previously been estimated at 7800MW, with only 2% being utilised, although a more conservative estimate in terms of the economically exploitable potential has not been fully established.

Top priority

Hydropower development has been identified as a top priority for power generation in the country due to an abundance of potential projects of all sizes, low cost (hydropower being potentially the least cost option for Madagascar), and high interest from the private sector. In addition, hydropower offers the country the benefit of being complementary with variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. It also could replace generation from imported fossil fuels such as diesel, which are expensive and vulnerable to international market price fluctuations.

Given this significant potential, and the opportunities for public and private investment, in October 2013, the World Bank agreed with the Ministry of Energy of Madagascar to assist with the establishment of a comprehensive hydropower resource map for the country. Financed by the World Bank's Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP), the mapping programme focuses on small hydropower projects - those sites with potential of between 1 and 20MW - as these are both the least investigated, and with the greatest opportunities for development in the short-to-medium term.

The end result will be a Madagascar Small Hydro Atlas covering the entire country, which will help various stakeholders, including the government, communities and private sector investors make informed decisions about hydropower planning, policy-making, and development. The Small Hydro Atlas will be an interactive tool that includes location-specific information on environmental and socio-economic considerations for small hydropower development.

Madagascar suffers from a high rate of deforestation which has had led to watershed deterioration, impacting on hydrology and related processes, such as flooding, soil erosion, sedimentation and mass soil movement. As a result some hydropower sites identified in the past may no longer be viable.

The project is being led by the World Bank in close coordination with Madagascar's Ministry of Energy and Hydrocarbon (MEH), the Electricity Regulation Office (ERO), the Development Agency of Rural Electrification (DARE) and the national utility JIRAMA (Jiro sy Rano Malagasy - Malagasy Electricity and Water Utility), along with other institutions such as the Department of Meteorology.
Funding of US$1.35M million is being provided by ESMAP under a global, US$22.5M initiative on Renewable Energy Resource Mapping that supports the assessment of solar, wind, small hydro and biomass resources in 12 countries. As an 'open data' initiative, all key outputs and datasets are made publicly available through the Global Atlas for Renewable Energy that is being developed by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

To develop the Small Hydro Atlas, international consultants commissioned by the World Bank are conducting a custom spatial analysis to identify river stretches with high hydropower potential, based on rainfall and topography. Without economic or technical constraints, Madagascar's small hydro resource is in excess of 350 sites between 1-20MW, with a total capacity of 1500MW. Through detailed prioritisation, based on factors such as demand, cost, and environmental impact, twenty sites were prioritised, with eleven being identified as potential sites of interest for development in the short-term (a total of 130MW).

While the Small Hydro Atlas will provide crucial data and information, a vital aspect of the initiative is the recommendations for implementation of small hydro within the framework of energy sector planning. The eleven prioritised sites were estimated as suitable for least cost development, a key requirement for the Madagascar Master Energy Plan, making them competitive for connection to the larger interconnected grids or isolated grids. With the country's annual increase in power demand in the order of tens of MW, small hydropower projects can be the right size to meet this increment in the short-to-medium term and to increase electricity access in rural areas. In addition, small hydro can be used to substitute for existing thermal generation which is very costly.

The project is now in its final stages of data collection and validation of selected prioritised sites, and the commissioning of prefeasibility studies of two sites among the priority sites identified. This validation will include hydrological monitoring in six targeted watersheds over 12 months, as well as geological assessments, topographic surveys, and socio-economic and environmental risk assessments.

This data gathering will have major benefits beyond the program, substantially improving hydrological knowledge about areas where resource mapping has not been extensively carried out. The completion of the prefeasibility studies will facilitate the launching of competitive processes for private sector development. Another World Bank activity will help the government to prepare standard agreements, including power purchase agreements, implementation agreements, and safeguard frameworks. With training of local agencies in hydrologic monitoring and GIS systems, it is expected that the initiative will have long-term capacity-building benefits for the country, as well as informing national renewable energy policymaking and planning going forward.

The authors are Silvia Martinez Romero and Vonjy Rakotondramanana from The World Bank.

All photos courtesy of SHER

B Tsaravao B Tsaravao small hydro site (2.2MW)
Sandratsio Falls and rapids at Sandratsio small hydro site (23.82MW)
Ambodimanga 3 Ambodimanga small hydro site (10.8MW)
Andriamanjavona Falls at Andriamanjavona
Ambodimanga 2 Ambodimanga small hydro site (10.8MW)
Gauging Antaralava Gauging Antaralava
Ambodimanga Ambodimanga small hydro site (10.8MW)

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