A feasibility and implementation model of small-scale hydropower development for rural electrification in South Africa: A case study of Kwa Madiba SSHP Plant

  • Gideon Johannes Bonthuys
  • Marco van Dijk
  • Jayant Narsee Bhagwan
Keywords: small-scale hydropower, rural electrification, feasibility, Kwa Madiba


Large numbers of households and communities will not be connected to the national electricity grid for the foreseeable future due to high cost of transmission and distribution systems to remote communities and the relatively low electricity demand within rural communities. Small-scale hydropower used to play a very important role in the provision of energy to urban and rural areas of South Africa. The national electricity grid, however, expanded and offered cheap, coalgenerated electricity and a large number of hydropower systems were decommissioned. In this study, a feasibility and implementation model was developed to assist in designing and financially evaluating small-scale hydropower (SSHP) plants. The implementation model describes steps to be followed in identifying a technically possible and economically feasible opportunity to develop a SSHP site for rural electrification. The development model was used in designing the Kwa Madiba SSHP plant. The Kwa Madiba SSHP plant was economically evaluated on net present value, internal rate of return, levelised cost of energy, financial payback period and cost/benefit ratio. The outcome of this study proved that it is technically possible to provide SSHP installations for rural electrification in South Africa that are more feasible than local or national electricity grid extensions or even alternative energy sources such as diesel generators. It was concluded that the levelised cost of SSHP projects indicates that the cost of SSHP for low energy generation is high compared to levelised cost of coal-fired power generation. However, the remoteness of SSHP for rural electrification increases the cost of infrastructure to connect remote rural communities to the national electricity grid. This provides a low cost/benefit ratio and renders technically implementable SSHP projects for rural electrification feasible on this basis.

Keywords: small-scale hydropower, rural electrification, feasibility, Kwa Madiba


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eISSN: 0378-4738