The African Development Bank-managed Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA) has granted $9.72 million to propel the Africa Hydropower Modernisation Programme (AHMP). This initiative, serving as a comprehensive platform, aims to revamp hydropower systems across the continent, augmenting their reliability and adaptability.

The infusion of funds will facilitate the expansion of AHMP's ongoing efforts, focusing on 12 private-sector-led projects spread across eight countries, selected through a competitive process. The initiative anticipates an additional 570MW of available capacity, requiring an estimated investment of $1 billion, inclusive of contributions from the private sector. Furthermore, these projects are expected to curtail greenhouse gas emissions by 1700 kilotons of CO2 equivalent annually. The grant, greenlit on November 21, 2023, is poised to make substantial strides in Africa's energy transition.

Among the noteworthy projects is the enhancement of Sudan's Roseires plant, a 280MW facility, through the upgrade of its cooling water system. This measure aims to mitigate forced outages. Additionally, the initiative includes the replacement of electromechanical equipment over 60 years old at the Lubilanji 1 plant in the Democratic Republic of Congo, boasting a capacity of 7MW.

Speaking on the significance of the project, João Duarte Cunha, the African Development Bank Division Manager for Renewable Energy and SEFA Manager, emphasized: "About half of Africa's hydropower assets are over 30 years old and ageing fast; modernizing them with the latest electro-mechanical and digital technologies is the fastest and cheapest way to increase clean energy capacity and enhance system flexibility needed to accelerate energy transition efforts."

This initiative aligns with the Bank's New Deal on Energy for Africa, a plan striving to provide universal access to energy across the continent. The strategy prioritizes the adoption of low-carbon technologies, tapping into Africa's abundant hydro, solar, geothermal, and wind resources. The modernization of hydropower systems emerges as a pivotal element in Africa's energy transition, ushering in reduced dependence on fossil fuels and facilitating the integration of variable renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

The AHMP was established in 2021 by the African Development Bank Group, kickstarted with a $1 million grant from SEFA. The program's objectives encompass enhancing low-cost, low-impact installed capacity, fortifying the reliability and flexibility of African power systems, and supporting hybridization solutions such as floating solar PV. Notably, the initiative is anchored in a strategic partnership with the International Hydropower Association (IHA), which recently conducted a comprehensive mapping of modernization needs and opportunities across the continent's hydropower fleet.

Hydropower plants like Kinguélé Aval in Gabon can, with refurbishment, play a key role in Africa's energy transition by reducing reliance on fossil fuel-derived electricity