Energy & Mining

Water under the bridge

Hydropower and the Angolan example

In Angola, hydropower is a crucial source of renewable energy, representing around 70% of total installed capacity.

Could hydropower and the Angolan example help bridge the gap to net zero? Over recent years, more and more members of the global club of nations have adopted ambitious clean energy and net zero targets. Yet major technological hurdles remain to making wind and solar viable replacements for fossil fuels, mainly in the energy storage area.

Enter sustainable hydropower, a viable solution to help bridge this gap. Hydropower is a renewable energy source derived from the movement of water. It is already considered one of the most important sources of renewable energy, with countries around the world looking to get in on the action as a way to reduce reliance on hydrocarbons.

In Angola, hydropower is a crucial source of renewable energy, representing around 70% of total installed capacity. By 2025, Angola’s hydropower generation capacity will have doubled to reach 9,000MW, while it has estimated capacity for up to 18,000MW.

Globally, estimates put capacity anywhere from 25.49 PWh/yr to 184.17 PWh/yr, with current worldwide hydropower generation standing at 4,370 TWh/yr, accounting for 63% of renewable energy and nearly 16% of total energy production.

The sector is also a big employer globally. According to the Renewable Energy and Jobs: Annual Review 2022 by the International Renewable Energy Agency, the sector provided direct employment to roughly 2.36 million individuals in 2021. Manufacturing accounted for about two-thirds of these jobs worldwide, while 30% were associated with construction and installation activities, and approximately 6% were in O&M services. Estimates put the number of jobs in the energy sector by 2050 at 122 million, with 43 million of those in renewables.

With all that in mind, Angola isn’t sitting on its laurels. To ensure it makes best use of its potential, there are several ongoing projects in the country. Currently, the two major hydropower plants in Angola at the moment are Capanda and Cambambe. Capanda is located on the Kwanza River, in Malanje province, and has a capacity of 520MW. Cambambe is located on the Kwanza River in the Kwanza Sul province and has a capacity of 180MW. The two plants currently provide the majority of Angola’s electricity, and will soon be joined by the Laúca hydropower plant, located on the Kwanza River in Malanje province. Once completed in 2024, it will become the largest such facility in the country with capacity of 2,070MW. Another major hydropower project, albeit a bit further off, is the Caculo Cabaça hydropower plant, which is located on the Kwanza River in the Kwanza Norte province. The project is expected to have a capacity of 2,172 MW and is currently under construction.

For Angola, its hydropower potential is also a key source pull for foreign investment, and there is still much up for grabs, from the development of new hydropower plants, especially on the Kwanza and Cunene rivers, to the rehabilitation of existing hydropower plants, the modernization of small- to medium-sized facilities, and the connection of hydropower plants to the national grid, particularly in rural areas, not to mention in technical and advisory services in order to develop new hydropower projects.

Angola is a shining example of what is possible with the right investment and, more importantly, the right commitment—it is no secret that oil dominates the Angolan economy, and a dominant hydropower sector allows the country to sell the majority of its oil on the international market, where it can command a higher price than locally.

Angola is certainly not putting all its eggs in one basket, however, with hydropower particularly vulnerable to seasonality, yet until advances in solar and wind tech make them more viable alternatives, hydropower is likely to continue to dominate the African nation’s energy matrix.