Finding a sustainable energy source to power the standard power grid of Tanzania has gone through several phases over the years, and as the Hydro sector begins to see its final days, many are scrambling to secure the next big power producer for the country. So what happened to the Hydro sector, a normally solid power plan offering consistent and long term power solutions?
The Hydro Power Project
Hydro power has been used in Tanzania since the early 1960’s and there are a total of six major power plants located throughout the region. The most recent plant was built in 2000, signaling that hydro power was still a viable option for the Tanzanian people. However over the last 15 years, the industry has taken a serious turn for the worse and many plants have been closed or are on the verge of being retired.
Impact of Resources
The major factor in the shift of power resources for the region is simply based on the fact that Tanzania has suffered from continuous droughts over the years devastating the water levels of many areas and forcing many hydro plants to shut down for periods of time to preserve the natural order of the power source. The managing director, Felchesmi Mramba, of Tanzanian electric supply company,Tanesco, stated, “The water level in most of our hydro power dams is not sufficient to generate electricity, yet there’s nothing we can do other than waiting for the rains to come.”
What Next for Power Sources
As many hydro power plants continue to struggle with supply and demand, it is reported that Tanzania relies on water to deliver more than 35% of its power to the country. Since recent droughts, temporary shut downs, and other factors, many companies are turning to other sources of power to help supplement the remaining amount of power needed and prepare to cover the remaining 35% of power supplied by local rivers.
- Oil and Gas – Oil and Gas is still a major player in Tanzania making up about 63% of the total power supply to the region. A cheap, dirty, and environmentally risky business that many are hoping to supplement through various other renewable energy sources.
- Geothermal – In early 2015, nearly 90 different locations were identified as potential power sources in the area, giving way to the possibility of 5,000MW of geothermal power. Sospeter Muhongo, the minister of energy and minerals, is hopeful for the geothermal sector and has recently solicited investors to help with the initiative saying, “The government will help to facilitate TGDC to access fund for implementation for this project and the remaining job is to make sure work is to begin to generate geothermal electricity in Tanzania starting with Lake Ngozi project.”
- Wind Power – Wind power has also been on the Tanzanian radar as companies look to harness the power of the plains through high end power producing windmills across the area. The first wind farm is reported to start producing electricity in late 2017 and is located in the remote area of Singida, a region known for its constant wind and potential.
- Solar Power – Solar energy has also taken off in Tanzania and companies like Off Grid Electric provide affordable solar equipment and power plants for rural customers. Yet, solar power is not a main grid solution for most areas even though the industry has made major technological improvements over the years, but it is a major solution to the millions of people who live “off the grid” making electricity readily available to more people than ever before.
Tanzania may be ready to retire their hydro plants, but they are far from giving up on providing electricity to their country far and wide. With more advancements in technology and the overall renewable energy initiatives being implemented across much of Africa, the Tanzanian people have a bright future ahead of them.