Climate Impacts on African Hydropower
Currently, hydropower accounts for 17% of the electricity generation in Africa on average. In some countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, and Zambia, the share of hydropower in electricity generation exceeds 80%. This share may potentially increase to more than 23% by 2040, as part of the ongoing effort towards clean energy transition and universal energy access in Africa.
Reliance on hydropower without assessing future climate impacts may increase risk
Expanding the share of hydropower in Africa may increase a country’s exposure to climate hazards and risks to electricity systems if carried out without assessing the potential impacts of climate change. Africa is one of the regions most susceptible to climate change. The continent is already experiencing increased anomalies in climate patterns and is likely to experience greater climate impacts for the remainder of the 21st century. For instance, southern Africa is likely to experience a drier climate with more frequent incidences of low precipitation, while east Africa is predicted to experience a wetter climate with more frequent heavy rainfall. In addition to these future anomalies in climate patterns, the continent’s high sensitivity to water availability and its low adaptive capacity compound African hydropower’s vulnerability to climate change.
The regional mean of hydropower capacity factor is projected to decrease until 2100
This report assesses climate impacts on African hydropower generation using general circulation models (GCM) and global hydrological models (GHM) comparing two different greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration pathways (which are associated with the level of global warming of below 2°C and around 3°C by 2100, respectively). The assessment considers 80% installed hydropower capacity in 13 African countries between 2020 and 2099, comparing projected results with values from the baseline period from 2010 to 2019.
From now until the end of the century, the mean hydropower capacity factor of selected hydropower plants is projected to decrease due to climate change in both scenarios. The average capacity factor of analysed African hydropower plants is likely to decrease by approximately 3% between 2060‑99 compared to the baseline period 2010‑19. The projected accumulative loss in generation output due to climate change for the remainder of the 21st century is approximately 130 terawatt-hours (TWh); this is equivalent to the current total annual generation output from all African hydropower plants.
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