Independent hydro developers assess growth opportunities at workshop

8 February 2019

Private developers, investors and government agencies examined the “great potential” for independently owned and sustainably managed hydro projects in emerging economies at a recent workshop in London, UK.

Organised by the International Hydropower Association (IHA), the workshop on 1 February 2019 looked at solutions to environmental, social, financial, legal and technical challenges brought forward by private sector hydropower development, with a focus on projects built in Africa.    

A panel discussion during the workshop

Despite recent growth in private investment in Africa’s power sector, only around 10 per cent of the continent’s economically feasible hydropower potential has been developed. Independent power producers (IPPs) form part of the power sector in the majority of African countries, but hydropower IPPs are less common.

Anton-Louis Olivier, CEO of Renewable Energy Holdings (REH), an investor, developer, owner and operator of hydropower projects across southern and eastern Africa, emphasised the “great potential for sustainable hydropower development” in the region.

Addressing the significant disparity between utilised hydropower capacity in Africa and other world regions, Mr Olivier said: “It’s important that private developers utilise the benefits of sustainable hydropower to respond to the increasing opportunities for independent power producers in Africa.”

Rebecca Wooding, Infrastructure Advisor at the UK Department for International Development (DFID), also noted the “huge potential for growth” of many low-income African countries as “much of the permanent, long-term infrastructure is still to be built.”

Kelly Malone, Partner and Head of the Global Power Team at King & Spalding law firm, highlighted the 420 MW run-of-river Nachtigal hydropower project, which is under development in Cameroon. Mr Malone praised the public-private partnership between the government of Cameroon, EDF and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). “From a historic standpoint, this is probably one of the most important milestones for the financing of hydropower in Africa,” Mr Malone commented.

Considerations for external stakeholders and local communities formed a large part of the day’s discussions. “People are at the heart of development and water has huge emotional, cultural and livelihood value to people and the ecosystems they depend on,” stated Shibani Bose, Environmental and Social Officer at FMO, the Dutch development bank.

Duncan Russell, Technical Director at Environmental Resources Management, remarked on the importance of investment decisions being informed by sustainability assessments. “Funders are fundamentally interested because they want to make lending decisions which are based on solid and sound background that integrates up to date engineering design with current and future environmental needs in a transparent manner,” he said.  

Richard Taylor, Chief Executive of IHA, closed the workshop by saying: “Finding solutions to advance hydropower development will depend on getting a pipeline of good projects designed to deliver what is needed in the countries and regions that will be hosting them.”

The workshop was organised in partnership with REH and King & Spalding, which hosted the event at its London office. It is part of a series of focused events leading up to the 2019 World Hydropower Congress, 14-16 May in Paris, France.

IHA members can access presentations and photos from the workshop in Hydropower Pro, IHA’s online member community. Please contact for information on becoming a member.

IHA members and non-members can now register for the World Hydropower Congress, which includes 37 focused sessions and workshops on topics including project ownership and financing, integrated planning, river basin development, small-scale power systems, and sustainability reporting.

Visit the World Hydropower Congress website for more details:

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