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Tanzania Starts Filling The Julius Nyerere Dam For 2115 MW Hydropower Plant

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Tanzania has started filling the Julius Nyerere Dam for the new 2,115 MW hydropower plant. The project cost is said to be about $3 billion. Tanzania currently has an installed capacity of around 1,600 MW. 48% of this capacity is from natural gas, 31% from hydropower, with the rest mostly from other fossil fuels. The contribution from solar is still below 1%. The Julius Nyerere hydropower plant will see Tanzania’s installed capacity jump to about 3,700 MW.  This will give a much needed boost to power economic growth in a country with a population of about 63 million people.

It’s great to see all this renewable energy capacity being added. Once fully operational, hydropower will have the major share of Tanzania’s installed capacity. Some smaller hydropower plants are also planned and in the works, which will add another 600 MW or so. That means that in the near future, hydro alone will contribute over 3,000 MW to Tanzania’s energy mix. Tanzania would also need to diversify its energy mix to ensure sufficient growth in generation capacity to meet growth targets as well as increase energy security.

Recently, Tanzania was forced to implement load-shedding due to low water levels around its current hydropower plants resulting from the drought that is ravaging the East African region. Zimbabwe and Zambia, in the Southern African region, also had to implement load-shedding due to drought-induced low water levels. Looking at Tanzania, there is a lot of room to add more utility-scale solar. Solar currently has a market share of only 1%. The development of a strong East African Power Pool will also be critical as Tanzania could tap into the potential for wind in Ethiopia and Kenya, as well as Kenya’s geothermal potential. Tanzania’s hydro can then also support Kenya and Ethiopia’s wind as needed.

The East African region in general also needs to diversity the energy mix and also expedite the development of a strong regional power pool. East Africa’s electricity mix is dominated by hydro. Hydro leads the way with about 54% and hydro’s share is still growing significantly. Hydropower contributes over 80% of the electricity generation mix in Ethiopia and Uganda. Ethiopia will soon have even more hydro with the phased implementation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which will contribute over 5,000 MW when completed. The 2,115 MW Julius Nyerere Dam Hydropower station is the other large hydro plant in the region, with several smaller ones also set to be added to the mix. Natural gas has the second largest share at about 14%, then geothermal at about 12%.


East Africa’s Electricity Generation Mix, redrawn from IRENA’s Renewable Energy Market Analysis: Africa and its Regions Report, January 2022

Droughts in the region are now more frequent and harsher. In Southern Africa, the situation is similar. In 2019, Zimbabwe and Zambia had to curtail generation at hydro power plants, and just 3 years later in 2022, they have to do that again. Coming back to East Africa, the report Drought in East Africa August 2022 from the Publications Office of the European Union says, “The precipitation deficit cumulated in the last 24 months (July 2020—June 2022, compared to the reference period 1981-2020) is severe over large regions in East Africa. The driest regions are: central and southern Somalia, south-eastern Ethiopia, and eastern Kenya. Values are up to about 50% deficit according to CHIRPS dataset and even higher (up to about 70 %).”

Image from Tanesco

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since. At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.


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