The success of hydropower

With the aim of addressing economic growth, social improvement and poverty reduction, the Mwenga project “Mwenga 3 MW Hydro Power Plant” was directed at improving the access to sustainable and reliable energy in fourteen villages in the rural areas of Tanzania. Specifically, the project was to build and operate a 4MW hydro-power ‘run of river’ facility, which would provide electricity to the village, the local tea industry and the national grid.

The construction of the hydro power plant and the distribution network were delayed by nearly two years due to much longer approval processing time than anticipated. However, the project implementation continued for parts of the projects which either had obtained approval or where no approvals were needed, for example preparation of access roads and outline of the power lines and stocking building materials. This pro-active measure ensured that the construction was ready to commence as soon as approvals/permits were obtained.

In March 2016, the ACP-EU Energy Facility Monitoring team conducted a site visit to monitor the impact of the project and provide recommendations for future use. The team learned that the Hydro Power Plant had been constructed with a technical design that according to nearly three years of operation is considered to be in line with expectations and calculations. The number of connections started out by being lower than expected, but a steadily increasing number of applications from new customers indicate the popularity and the affordability of connections.

The project has had a special focus on providing all schools with electricity and this apparently helps retain the high qualified and best teachers, and hence it is expected that the educational level and students’ performance over years will improve. The active involvement and participation at the local level through the constitution of village “electricity committees” are likely to have ensured a sense of local ownership to the project. Through these committees the collection of information related to the power line routing and providing information through project awareness dissemination has effectively supported the project management.

The 2nd phase of the project is currently being implemented. The project entitled “Mwenga Hydro Rural Network Extension into the Kihansi Basin” aims to expand the existing Mwenga Rural Network into the neighbouring Kihansi Basin, in order to supply 17 villages with clean renewable energy. By building and operating additional 204 km of new power-lines, it is expected that this extension exercise will result in approximately 3000 + new rural connections within the first 20 months of commercial operation.

The Mwenga actions serve as good demonstration projects for private sector involvement in the energy sector. The Government of Tanzania is promoting further involvement of private investment in this sector and the Mwenga case can serve well in this context.