Sustainable energy forum highlights Africa hydro potential

More than 180 diplomats and experts from around the world convened in Vienna for the sixth meeting of the Global Forum on Sustainable Energy (GFSE), this year focusing on sustainable energy for Africa, and highlighting hydropower’s potential.

The forum, November 29-December 1, concentrated on ways to support Africa’s sustainable energy aspirations at the upcoming 15th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, to be held in May 2007 in New York. The GFSE provides a platform for multi-stakeholder dialog on energy policy and seeks to foster public-private partnerships to advance sustainable energy.

In addition to broader energy issues, GFSE featured a plenary session on hydropower on the African continent.

Speaking for the International Hydropower Association (IHA), Director Richard Taylor emphasized that only 7 percent of Africa’s realistic hydropower potential has been developed. Taylor said both large and small hydropower development can contribute to Africa’s energy challenges.

Taylor noted IHA has adopted sustainability guidelines and assessment protocols aimed at promoting greater consideration of environmental, social, and economic sustainability in assessment of new, and management of existing, hydro projects. (HNN 8/2/06)

Mark Howells, formerly of the University of Cape Town, now of the International Atomic Energy Agency, highlighted commitments made in March at the African Ministerial Conference on Hydropower and Sustainable Development. (HNN 3/15/06) He noted a consensus to promote hydropower on the continent, the dissemination of experiences, and taking advantage of available financing mechanisms within Africa.

Thomas Chiramba, of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Dams and Development Project, said project objectives must include promoting improved decision making on dams and their alternatives and sustaining a multi-stakeholder dialog on relevant issues. (HNN 7/3/06) He emphasized a need to move from discussions on principles and concepts to practical tools.

From the industry perspective, Harald Schmid of Andritz VA Tech Hydro explained engineering features of a 30-MW modular hydropower plant in Sudan, noting modular installation times are one-third that of conventional hydropower. VA Tech Hydro’s Bernd Hindelang described a project to retrofit a low-head hydropower plant on the Nile River, noting low-head plants tend to have fewer environmental and social effects.

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