Six hundred million people across Africa do not have access to electricity. And the continent’s population is expected to grow rapidly.
“That’s a lot of people who are going to need electricity,” says Paulina Jaramillo, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University.
Her research shows that some areas of sub-Saharan Africa, such as Ethiopia, have a lot of potential hydropower that could help meet that demand without burning more fossil fuels.
And hydropower can be paired with other renewable sources, such as solar, to help balance the energy supply on cloudy days or overnight.
“Africa has a lot of solar potential,” Jaramillo says. “Solar is not available at night, but hydro could be.”
But hydropower depends on having water available. So Jaramillo says interconnecting different regions of the grid could help move hydropower from where it’s abundant to where it’s scarce.
And building more reservoirs would allow water to be saved during the wet season so it can be used during the dry season.
She says hydropower can have significant drawbacks, such as the impact of flooding an area to create a reservoir. But careful planning can ensure this renewable resource is one piece of the electricity future for billions of Africans.
Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media