Tanzania has abundant energy sources, most of which remain unexploited. Hydro has traditionally played a significant role: with an installed capacity of 562 MW, it accounts for roughly one-third of total installed power capacity. With a hydro potential of 4.7 GW, the country plans further development, but views weak transmission infrastructure as a significant short-term barrier.
Only 41 per cent of the population has access to electricity. Low population density and expensive transmission costs have led to the government adopting targeted policies to develop off-grid schemes in order to increase the current levels of rural electricity access.
In 2016, the Tanzania Rural Electrification Expansion Project was approved by the World Bank, with USD 200 million in funding from the International Development Association. The programme will scale up the supply of renewable energy in rural areas while strengthening sector institutional capacity. Overall, the Tanzanian power system master-plan aims to achieve 75 per cent access by 2035, compared to 41 per cent today. This will require a seven-fold increase on the current rate of installed capacity in order to satisfy demand.
The Tanzanian Government’s Big Results Now (BRN) initiative seeks to phase out high-cost emergency power plants, increase total generation capacity from 1,300 MW to 2,780 MW, reform operations at the public utility (TANESCO) and meet increasing demand through low-cost solutions.
In recent years, the ministry for energy and minerals has established a framework for developing small power projects using the country’s abundant renewable energy resources. This aims to accelerate access to electricity and promote the development and operation of small power projects among local and foreign private investors. Eligible projects are those with a capacity ranging from 100 kW to 10 MW, which use a renewable energy source, and which intend to supply commercial electricity to the national grid or isolated grid in the country.
One of the first projects implemented under this initiative, the Tulila hydroelectric plant on the Ruvuma River in southern Tanzania has since 2015 been delivering 5 MW (with provision to expand to 7.5 MW) of renewable electricity to a TANESCO-operated mini-grid, which supplies the remote Ruvuma region. The region was previously dependent on diesel- generated power. The project, developed by the African Benedictine Sisters convent, reliably produces and sells excess electricity to the state- owned energy supplier. This in turn generates long-term income for the convent’s charitable work, including a kindergarten, schools with roughly 1,400 schoolchildren and an orphanage.
Agriculture is the basis of the Tanzanian economy, representing almost 30 per cent of the national GDP. It is therefore critical that the country has sufficient infrastructure for irrigation in order to support agricultural industry during periods of drought. Hydropower facilities could be used to store water specifically so that it can be released during periods of drought.
Recent notable hydropower projects in Tanzania include Rusumo Falls (80 MW), which was agreed by energy ministers of Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania in 2014. In 2016, contracts were awarded for the electromechanical equipment and dam facilities, with operation scheduled to begin in 2019. Supported by the World Bank and the African Development Bank, the project is located on the Kagera River along the Rwanda– Tanzania border, and will share its output with, and connect the grids of, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi.
The Kikonge project, currently in the planning process, will store water to be released during periods of drought. The project comprises a dam across the Ruhuhu River, forming a reservoir of 6 billion m3, capable of generating 300 MW. The pre-feasability study is partially funded by the African Development Bank. A high-voltage transmission line, an irrigation scheme and an agro-business development are also planned as part of the project.
This country profile is featured in the 2017 Hydropower Status Report. You can download the full report here.
This profile was last updated in May 2017.