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Renewable Energy in Time of Electricity Access Crises in Mozambique


27 May 2021

Stephanie Taylor

The Republic of Mozambique is located in the southeastern part of the African continent. Covering an area of 801,590 square kilometers, it shares borders with Tanzania, Zambia, and Malawi to the north, Zimbabwe to the west, and Swaziland and South Africa to the south. The eastern coastline, characterized by beaches, coral reefs, and mangrove swamps, faces the Mozambique Channel (part of the Indian Ocean) and stretches for 2,500 km. Mozambique is divided into ten provinces: Maputo (the capital), Gaza, Inhambane, Sofala, Manica, Zambezia, Nampula, Tete, Niassa, and Cabo Delgado.

Population-wise, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data, the current population of Mozambique is 31,984,850. The overall electricity access rate was estimated to be below 30% in 2018, with around 5% of the rural population having access to energy. However, Mozambique relies heavily on exporting commercial electricity to South Africa from the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi River to generate foreign exchange income.

Many NGOs and Private Institutes in the Energy sector are working hard to implement sustainable and accessible energy solutions to minimize the problems caused by the lack of electricity not only in households but especially in schools, hospitals, and commercial establishments in these areas, leaving one to question:

Will Renewable and Sustainable Energies in Mozambique be the solution to elevate the electricity access rate in rural areas and boost the growth of the country’s economy, education, and medical health access issues?

Renewable energies potential in Mozambique

Physical Potential

Mozambique has a total renewable potential of ~23,000 GW. Solar potential is the most abundant resource at 23,000 GW, followed by hydro (19 GW), wind (5 GW), biomass (2 GW), and geothermal (0.1 GW). Of this total resource, approximately 7.5 GW of priority projects has been identified in the Atlas, comprising 5.6 GW of hydro, 1.1 GW of Wind, 0.6 GW of solar, 0.13 GW of biomass, and 20 MW of geothermal.

Solar Potential

Mozambique has significant and virtually unexploited solar potential. Global horizontal irradiation varies between 1,785 and 2,206 kWh/m2/year. Mozambique has a potential of more than 2.7 GW that could be quickly developed. This potential offers many possibilities for grid-connected and rural electrification projects. The Renewable Energy Atlas identified 189 locations for grid-connected power plants close to existing substations, with a total capacity of 599 MW. The provinces of Maputo and Tete have the highest potential for grid-connected solar projects, essentially due to the favorable grid infrastructure. There is approximately 1.3 MW of solar PV-based mini-grids installed in Niassa funded by the Government of South Korea, about 200 kW (50x 4 kW each) of solar PV-based mini-grids financed by the Portuguese Carbon Fund, and a handful of multi- and bi-lateral programs (e.g., World Bank, Belgian Development Agency (BTC), UNIDO, Energising Development) focused on the installation of SHS on rural institutions, micro-enterprises, and households. The current installed capacity in the country is estimated to be 2.2 MW.

Since the rural population is highly dispersed, most projects are off-grid, stand-alone systems and decentralized mini-grids. When selecting locations for PV systems, priority is given to government institutions, including schools, hospitals, and government administrative functions. Active commercial markets have not yet developed without an incentive system, and there is relatively little private participation. A factor for that may also be that consumers may prefer to wait for the arrival of FUNAE-funded projects compared to personal projects, given their cost disadvantage.

The Government’s renewable strategy also includes targets for installing 100,000 solar water heaters and 5,000 solar refrigerators up to 2025.

Wind Potential

Measurements of wind power potential are conducted throughout the country. Mozambique has limited wind resources, and average wind speeds reach over seven m/s in Maputo and Gaza. The Renewable Energy Atlas identified a total wind potential of 4.5 GW, of which 1,100 MW may have the potential for grid connection. Out of these, about 230 MW are considered high potential.

Biomass Potential

According to the Renewable Energy Atlas, Mozambique has the potential to generate over 2 GW of electricity from biomass. Of this, a 128 MW pipeline of priority biomass projects would be viable for development in the short term. The following sectors and market segments offer the potential for biogas or biomass technologies:

  • Forestry: residues from conventional logging or dedicated plantations (1,006 MW)
  • Industry and agriculture: agro-industrial waste from farms, wood, and plant waste from manufacturing industries (N/A)
  • Pulp industry: “black liquor” from wood-firing processes for use in cogeneration plants (280 MW)
  • Sugar industry: residual bagasse from the sugarcane crushing process for use in cogeneration plants; sugar cane foliage (831 MW)
  • Municipal solid waste: incineration or deposition in landfills for the production of biogas (63 MW)
  • Other: small and medium-sized livestock holdings, vegetable oils extracted for coconut or jatropha

Hydropower Energy in Mozambique

As mentioned, Mozambique’s electricity market is dominated by hydropower generation, primarily used for exports to neighboring South Africa and Zimbabwe via the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP). Electricity demand has risen by over 11% per annum between 2009 and 2014, and generation capacity is expected to increase to 3,138 MW by 2022 and 4,163 MW by 2030.

The Renewable Energy Atlas identified 189 locations for grid-connected power plants close to existing substations with a total capacity of 599 MW. Since the rural population is highly dispersed, most depend on batteries and diesel mini-grid systems. Stand-alone solar PV systems are increasing, and the potential for solar nano/microgrids is rising. Private sector off-grid electrification has an identified market potential of approximately 4 million households.

In conclusion, this study provides enough information that proves that the potential of renewable energy in Mozambique has an excellent chance of being the future solution for the electricity crisis currently happening in the country, contributing to the growth of the economy, bettering the educational and health issues faced by 95% of the population living in the rural areas, where the electricity plants do not reach.

There is hope that at some point, most of the energy solutions being projected will soon be implemented; however, while on the wait, green lights are shining in some places where energy is needed chiefly thanks to small yet significant projects being implemented, such as The Solar Giraffe, a structure that supports photovoltaic panels. Under the roof, the solar system powers a technical cabinet with ten sockets for charging cell phones and a radio for listening to music and news. All other designs are installed to support and protect the electrical system and users. More plug-in-play solutions can be added, such as internet hotspots, television, computers, and many others.

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