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Climate change and upstream development impacts on new hydropower projects in the Zambezi

Project Reference: AAGL-0009G

A long-term assessment of climate change impacts on the technical and economic viability of hydropower plans and irrigation demand has not been conducted in the Zambezi River Basin. The Basin plays a critical role in agriculture and energy development for countries in Southern Africa. Between 2010 and 2015, the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) has planned an integrated expansion which includes more than 6,300 MW of new large scale hydropower with at least another 6,500 MW under discussion within the basin. The plans for these major investments do not, however, include an assessment of long term climate change impacts on the technical and economic viability of hydropower plants and irrigation demand. This distinct research examines the interaction between climate change, irrigation and hydropower in the basin.

This research analyses how  upstream climate and irrigation demand changes would affect water availability for major downstream basin hydropower plants. This analysis includes integrated water and energy scenarios for the basin which will build on a set of consistent development and climate scenarios for the region. In addition the study will show how changes in water availability for hydropower would affect the SAPP overall electricity system and the financial viability of the hydropower investments. The project will include an analysis of potential impacts but will also engage with stakeholders to validate the information used and conclusions of the analysis. Capacity building for research staff and the SAPP Co-ordination Centre staff has also been integrated into the project.

The project will build a platform of knowledge and analysis which will benefit the region. The analysis will be anchored in a group of Southern African universities- University of Cape Town, University of Zambia and the University of Eduardo Mondlane and will provide a foundation for on-going academic work, whilst the collaboration with utilities places vital information in the hands of decision makers on future power investments.

For more information a blog by Randall Spalding-Fecher on Powering Southern Africa: the future of hydro in the Zambezi River Basin is available.

Lead Organisation: Energy Research Centre, University of Cape Town.

Primary Investigator: Randall Spalding-Fecher, Pöyry Management Consulting

Project partners: Alison Hughes, Harald Winkler, Bernard Tambo and Karen Donovan (Energy Research Centre of the University of Cape Town); Randall Spalding-Fecher, Martin Fuchs and Harald Kling (Pöyry Management Consulting, South Africa); Arthur Chapman, Stephanie Midgley and Belynda Petrie (OneWorld Sustainable Investments, South Africa); Francis Yamba (Centre for Energy, Environment and Engineering, Zambia); Imasiku Nyambe (School of Mines, University of Zambia); Boaventura Cuamba, Gilberto Mahumene and Aurelio Bucuane (University of Eduardo Mondlane, Mozambique).

CDKN Funding: £200,000

Project Manager: Shehnaaz Moosa

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