Electrifying the World
I had the opportunity to attend the International
Hydropower Association’s (IHA) World
Hydropower Congress last month in Addis
Ababa, Ethiopia, in Africa.
Tis was a great experience, and it made me
see just how valuable hydropower is in many
areas of the world, particularly those in which
it is the most readily available natural resource
and yet still signifcantly underutilized.
I flew into the Addis Ababa Bole
International Airport late on a Monday evening. Everything was
running smoothly and I completed all the proper steps to obtain my
visa, change money, collect my luggage and clear the last of the security
checkpoints. My fnal step was to catch the shuttle to my hotel, where
I planned to collapse on the bed after traveling since noon (central
time in the U.S.) the previous day.
As I and several other IHA Congress attendees were awaiting
the shuttle’s arrival, I was chatting with the airport employee who
was arranging our shuttle. He asked why we were in Addis Ababa
and we told him about the IHA Congress. About that time, the
entire building lost power. It was dark for just a few seconds before
the supply of electricity was restored, and I hadn’t even had time
to say anything when the employee remarked, “See, that’s why we
need that dam.”
I asked what dam he was referring to, and he mentioned Grand
Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which is currently under con-
struction on the Blue Nile River. Te dam will impound water for a
6,000-MW hydroelectric powerhouse and be located 40 km from the
Sudan border. GERD has been under construction since 2011 and is
expected to be complete in 2018 at a cost of $6.4 billion.
I found it interesting and enlightening that what I would consider
a fairly “average citizen” of the country was so aware of the status of
its hydropower development and the benefts that would bring. But
maybe that is not unexpected in a city that experiences fairly regular
electricity interruptions. In fact, in one day at the UN Conference
Centre (where the IHA Congress was held), the electricity went out
For those of us who enjoy reliable access to electricity, this may
seem unacceptable. But IHA says installed hydropower capacity
worldwide is set to more than double by 2050, so hopefully this
will allow less-developed countries to enjoy a steady, reliable source
of power.Speaking of global hydropower capacity, IHA’s recently
released 2017 Hydropower Status Report says 31. 5 GW of new hydro
capacity was installed in 2016, including 6. 4 GW of pumped storage
(nearly double the previous year). With this boost, global hydro
capacity reached 1,246 GW and worldwide hydropower generation
was about 4,102 GWh.
Regionally, some key leaders emerged in 2016: East Asia and Pacifc
added 14,154 MW, South America 9,738 MW, Africa 3,413 MW,
Europe 1,810 MW, South and Central Asia 1,315 MW, and North
and Central America 1,051 MW.
It is clear the momentum is there for continued hydropower
development worldwide, and the obvious benefts for all regions of
the world should soon follow.