Due to its mountainous terrain and high rainfall in many parts of the country, Papua New Guinea has abundant, although largely untapped, hydropower resources. No detailed studies of hydropower potential have ever been completed although an estimate commonly cited is a technical potential of 15,000 MW.
Given the relatively small population size, low access to electricity, commercial and technical challenges of hydropower, Papua New Guinea today has an installed capacity of less than 250 MW. However this is likely to increase over the coming decade with several projects under development.
Despite many years of economic growth, less than 20 per cent of the country’s population is connected to the power grid, which is owned and operated by the national utility company, PNG Power Ltd. The government is working closely with the private sector and international partners to scale up household access having set a goal of 70 per cent by 2030. Hydropower development will be critical to not only improving household electricity access, affordability and grid reliability but also in achieving the government’s 2050 vision of a decarbonised power supply.
Hydropower accounts for approximately 40 per cent of Papua New Guinea’s installed capacity, with plants operating in each of the country’s three main power grids: Port Moresby, Ramu and the Gazelle Peninsula. The remainder is supplied by a mixture of natural gas, geothermal and diesel-fired plants, many of which serve rural communities.
The largest hydropower projects under active development include Naoro- Brown (80 MW), Ramu 2 (240 MW) and Edevu (50 MW). Detailed preparatory work is underway on Naoro-Brown, located northeast of the capital. PNG Power appointed transaction advisers Multiconsult and King & Spalding in 2016 with financial support from the World Bank. Given the size of the project and the need for connecting infrastructure, multiple government agencies were involved in the transaction structuring process which is now complete. The full environmental and social impact study is due in late 2018 after which PNG Power will tender the project to private investors and engineering, procurement and construction partners.
Ramu 2 is slated to be developed under a Public-Private Partnership model with Chinese firms, Shenzen Energy and Sinohydro, but construction has been delayed due to question marks over demand as much of the power was intended to be consumed by a new mine yet to secure necessary investment.
The Edevu project was launched in February 2017 by PNG Power and is being constructed by the Chinese company PNG Hydro Development Ltd, with commissioning expected in 2020. PNG Hydro Development Ltd will also construct the Edevu-Moitaka 132 kV transmission line to transport electricity from the Edevu plant, and eventually from the Naoro-Brown plant to the Central Province.
There are also several rehabilitation works being supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). These include the Rouna I (2.5 MW) and Sirinumu plants (1.6 MW) which are part of the Port Moresby Power Grid Development Project. Further rehabilitation works under the Town Electrification Investment Programme will see both the Yonki Toe dam (18 MW) and the Warangoi (10 MW) plants increase their generation and extend their operating life by up to 25 years.
In addition, the ADB is aiding the development of two 3 MW run-of-river projects (Divune and Ramazon) with the aim of both significantly increasing electrification rates and supplanting diesel generation in small rural centres.
Finally, to support the sustainable development of the hydropower sector and given the unique cultural and ecological diversity of Papua New Guinea, the World Bank is funding a study to assess how best to enable the long-term sharing of benefits from hydropower projects among impacted communities.
This country profile is featured in the 2018 Hydropower Status Report. Download the full report here.
This profile was last updated in June 2018