Building power and water infrastructure capability in South Africa

March 6, 2015

Specialist power and water consulting firm Entura has identified opportunities for the South African city of Durban to increase its use of renewable energy, while at the same time driving down water infrastructure operating costs.

Entura received a grant from the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), an international non-profit organisation, to identify opportunities to install mini-hydro (100kW to 1MW) on existing water supply infrastructure. The opportunities identified would enable generation of energy from renewable sources without the need for large and costly new infrastructure.

REEEP’s mission is to accelerate markets for clean energy in developing countries and emerging markets, and provided €148 000 in funding for the project to help ignite potential markets for mini-hydro in medium-sized cities.

“The potential for mini-hydro to transform the energy mix in many cities is considerable. This project is setting the stage for not only Durban, but the wider region as well,” said Eva Oberender, Director of Programme at REEEP.

The project was co-funded by eThekwini Water and Sanitation, a service unit of Durban City Council.

“Durban City Council has a vision of becoming a green city. The focus of Entura’s work was to assess the economic viability of installing mini-hydro schemes on existing infrastructure, such as pipelines and reservoirs, in support of that vision,” said Project Manager, Entura’s Rik Van Der Kley.

“We found there is scope for utilities to add value to their existing operations, with mini-hydro projects of less than 1 megawatt providing viable opportunities. However, greater returns and investment opportunities exist for larger municipalities where projects in the 1-2 megawatt range could be developed.

“Infrastructure owners who invest in mini-hydro as an add-on to their core business can offset their own electricity costs by using the energy generated to run part of their operations, or could earn extra revenue by putting the energy into the local grid.”

An important part of the project was cultivating local knowledge and skills to support identification and development of similar opportunities elsewhere in the region. The project culminated in a full-day training workshop on 5 March for 45 participants, many from partner organisation eThekwini Water and Sanitation, and involving similar utilities from neighbouring municipalities, hydropower developers, engineering firms, and financing agencies. Training was delivered through the Entura clean energy and water institute.

“The project has not only helped us understand what opportunities exist but also provides a framework for taking projects forward,” said Ednick Msweli, Head of eThekwini Water and Sanitation. “The training and documentation that has been delivered as part of this process will also help other municipalities in the region and perhaps even other African countries to undertake similar projects.”

Once implemented, the mini-hydro projects will also contribute to meeting renewable energy targets in South Africa.