Future hydropower production in the Lower Zambezi under possible climate change influence

  • P Stanzel
  • H Kling
Keywords: Zambezi River, hydropower development, climate change, hydropower modelling, water resources


Hydropower is the most important energy source in Mozambique and many other countries in southern Africa. Substantial hydropower development is planned for the Lower Zambezi for the next decades, with regional importance due to integration into the Southern African Power Pool. For such a long-term development, the possible impact of climate change on the future production is of essential interest. The objective of the presented study is to assess hydropower generation in the 21st century for a future hydropower development scenario under two climate scenarios. The two climate scenarios represent a future wetting climate and a future drying climate, both with considerable warming, and are based on bias-corrected data of two recent Global Climate Models. All hydro-meteorological input data are publicly available from an online decision support system, the Zambezi DSS. The future hydropower scenario considers the extension of the existing Cahora Bassa plant and three planned facilities downstream, Mphanda Nkuwa, Boroma and Lupata. Hydropower modelling for this cascade of reservoirs and hydropower plants is carried out with the HEC-ResSim model. Modelling results show a strong impact of precipitation projections on simulated future hydropower generation. With a wetting climate scenario, a marked increase of hydropower production of +11% for a near-future period (2021–2050) and +9% for a far-future period (2071-2100) are projected, as compared with simulation results for a historic reference scenario. In a drying climate, hydropower generation decreases by -6% (near future) and -13% (far future). The climate change impact is stronger for the large extended Cahora Bassa plant than for the smaller downstream facilities. The results show the importance of considering climate risk in technical design and financial assessment of hydropower projects in the region.

Keywords: Zambezi River, hydropower development, climate change, hydropower modelling, water resources


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eISSN: 0378-4738