Robust African hydropower development under socio-economic uncertainties

Population growth and improved energy access are worldwide triggering investments in power capacity expansion. Meanwhile, hydropower is experiencing a boom in many energy portfolios, especially in developing regions where most of the untapped hydropower potential lies. Strategic planning of hydropower development is crucial to reduce environmental and social impacts, and provide good performance in multiple sectors with competing objectives considering water, energy, economy and climate. Nevertheless, due to the deep uncertainty involved in socio-economic projections, often overlooked in strategic dam planning, policy makers are required to take planning decisions with an unclear vision of the future. This is especially true for Africa, where projections for population and energy demand are highly uncertain, and where more than 300 new hydropower projects are under consideration, mostly in the least developed and most uncertain areas. The development of these power plants is contingent on meeting future energy demands and therefore strongly tied to the associated uncertainty. This report examines energy portfolios considering each hydropower project reported in the African Hydropower Atlas, using a continental power system model driven by uncertain final energy demands based on the shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs).