The Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA), managed by the African Development Bank, has emphasized the importance of hydropower modernisation in meeting the growing demand for renewable energy in Africa. This message was conveyed during the Africa Energy Forum, held in Nairobi from June 20-23, with support from the Government of Kenya, the African Development Bank, IFC, and other partners.

A session titled 'Hydropower Modernisation to Accelerate Africa's Energy Transition' shed light on the significant potential of renovating existing hydropower infrastructure. The session, moderated by Dr. Daniel Schroth, Director for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency at the African Development Bank, highlighted the advantages of this approach. Upgrading existing facilities allows for the rapid availability of dispatchable renewable energy, reduces the time required for project completion, and provides opportunities for integrating variable renewable energy sources such as floating solar.

In conjunction with the Africa Energy Forum, the African Development Bank, in collaboration with the International Hydropower Association (IHA), launched a flagship report entitled "Africa Hydropower Modernisation Programme: Continent-wide Mapping of Hydropower Rehabilitation Candidates." This comprehensive report assesses the requirements for modernising hydropower infrastructure across Africa and offers valuable insights to advance the continent's renewable energy generation.

Eddie Rich, CEO of the International Hydropower Association, acknowledged the significant potential of hydropower modernisation in Africa. He urged governments to incentivise sustainable hydropower development and refurbishment through financial and market mechanisms that promote flexibility. Rich also emphasized the importance of streamlining permitting and licensing processes to accelerate the development of renewables while incorporating hydropower sustainability practices into government regulations.

The report identified 21 hydropower stations in high need and 36 in medium need of refurbishment out of the 87 stations screened. These stations have a combined installed capacity of 4.6GW and 10GW, respectively, representing a substantial opportunity for modernisation. In response to these findings, SEFA has prioritized providing technical and financial support to these projects. The initiative also involves close coordination with partner institutions to ensure additional support is available.

João Cunha, Head of SEFA at the African Development Bank, emphasized the significance of the Africa Hydropower Modernisation Programme and the accompanying report in accelerating investments in Africa's aging hydropower infrastructure. Cunha stated that hydropower modernisation goes beyond infrastructure upgrades, serving as a means to decarbonize and enhance the flexibility and resilience of power systems, critical components of a successful energy transition.

The Africa Energy Forum also featured an interactive panel discussion involving key stakeholders in the hydropower sector. Matteo Bianciotto, Senior Policy Manager at the International Hydropower Association; Marcelino Gildo Alberto, Chairman and CEO of Electricidade de Mozambique; Atinuke Taiwo, Executive Director & General Counsel at Mainstream Energy Solutions; Eluma Obibuaku, Senior Vice President and Head of Power at Africa Finance Corporation; and Angela Nalikka, African Development Bank Division Manager for Public Private Partnerships & Advisory, contributed to the engaging exchange of ideas and perspectives.