The Right Climate for Green Energy in Mozambique

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Light or water? That’s a choice Southern Africa could face in a few years if current plans to build more large dams on the Zambezi proceed. 

A new report reveals that Mozambique's plans to build the US$2 billion Mphanda Nkuwa Dam on the Zambezi River will mostly serve South Africa’s needs, while creating social and environmental impacts in Mozambique, and ignoring climate-change warnings that show major hydrological problems ahead for Southern Africa. The Zambezi, Africa's fourth largest river, is expected to be especially vulnerable to climate change. Millions of people depend upon it for their livelihoods.

In a new report being released in Johannesburg on October 11 and in Maputo on October 19, author Mark Hankins, a Nairobi-based renewable energy expert, describes how Mozambique could develop a domestic electricity supply system based on market-ready, clean-energy options that are low-cost, rapidly implementable, and well-suited to the geographical distribution of local demand. The plan focuses on distributed renewable energy and energy efficiency that would meet the energy needs of the far-flung  parts of the country that do not now have access to electricity.  Most of the technologies described in the report are also well-suited to meeting the growing need of urban areas already tied to the grid. Currently, 80% of Mozambique's population does not have access to electricity.

“It’s time we begin to address our own energy needs, and in ways that will protect our important natural treasures like the Zambezi River,” said Anabela Lemos, the director of the Maputo-based NGO Justica Ambiental (JA!). “Clean, decentralized energy for all should be the top priority, not damming the Zambezi to support energy-hogging industry and cities in South Africa.” JA! is the sponsor of the report.

Mark Hankins said, “As long as the Mozambique’s power planners focus on the huge consumer next door, they will never adequately meet the needs of their own country, which remains largely off-grid and unconnected. It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Hankins says that in Mozambique, “The average electricity per capita is 450kW hours per year per capita, but when you remove the energy consumed by the aluminum smelter at Mozal, it goes down to 50KW per capita – among the lowest use in the world. South African consumption is about 50 times higher.”  

Hankins says there is also huge potential for cost-effective energy efficiency measures in South Africa that could greatly reduce the need or new big dams on the Southern African grid. “Right now, Mozambique  is supporting wasteful electricity use south of its border. In fact, South
Africa has the potential to quickly shave 3 to 5 times Mozambique’s entire consumption with energy efficiency measures.  Demand-side management, primarily in South Africa, must be considered as an alternative to endless investment in megadams and coal fired power plants.”

He says another benefit is long-lasting employment for locals. "Green power creates more jobs than coal and hydro, and safer jobs."

The report notes there is significant potential for green biomass with five large sugar farms that could contribute considerable bagasse from sugar cane waste to biomass fired electricity. Converting sugar waste into biofuel could put another 60MW on the grid that could extend electrification to rural areas.

The report details the nation’s potential for solar, wind, small-scale hydro, and biomass. It describes key energy efficiency measures that could help Mozambique reduce its energy load going forward. And it describes steps needed to help its energy sector develop these kinds   of
decentralized energy systems.

Hankins notes:  “Eskom is the fifth largest power company in the world and South Africa has been very successful in giving people access to electricity. Green energies tend to be more expensive, but they create jobs and don’t damage the environment. In Kenya electricity costs three times what it does in South Africa. Getting South Africans off cheap electricity is like getting Americans off cheap gasoline.”

“Cheap electricity is usually dirty electricity, but at some point you still have to pay for the costs of ruined river basins and polluted air and water,” says JA's Lemos.


Biographical information on Mark Hankins:
Mr. Hankins is an energy consultant based in Nairobi. He specializes in rural electrification and renewable energy, and has worked in East  and Southern Africa for more than 20 years. A leader in development and  execution of PV projects in Africa, he has worked with renewable   projects for the private sector, UN, the World Bank, USAID, the GEF,  and others.  He is the author of the book "Solar Electric Systems for Africa."


Media contacts: 

Mark Hankins:

Cell: +254 722 527710

Landline (Nairobi, Kenya): +254 20 2725297

iPhone: +254 772 527710

Skype: mark_a_hankins  Email:

In Mozambique:

Anabela Lemos - JA! Justica Ambiental, Maputo

Land Line: +258 21 49668

Cell: +258843106010