HomeRegional NewsAfricaRegional motivation to develop South Sudan’s hydro power capacity

Regional motivation to develop South Sudan’s hydro power capacity

By Jacob Manyuon Deng (MSc, REng, MIAEE, MSSEC), Acting Director General of planning & projects at South Sudan Electricity Corporation and part-time lecturer at University of Juba, South Sudan

This article first appeared in ESI-Africa Edition 5, 2018. You can read the magazine’s articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

Development without a reliable electricity power supply will remain a dream in South Sudan. The country can make this a reality by concentrating efforts into developing its vast hydro potential resources. Here follows the story of South Sudan and its future direction to spark investor interest.

During and immediately after the 2013 crisis in South Sudan, the government-controlled power stations were all shut down due to lack of fuel and spare parts. The sector authorities made a resolution to involve the private sector in the endeavours to revive the sector but investors have been citing insecurity in the country.

The accessibility rate to grid electricity in South Sudan, which is thermal based, is estimated at 1.0%, a rate that has been constant for the past eleven years. The per capita electricity consumption is in the range of 1–10kWh. Power generation is by diesel-fired generators, which suffer the demerits of high cost of fuel, short life span and environmental degradation. 83% of South Sudan is rural and uses kerosene, charcoal and firewood3. Other sources of energy that are widely used in the country’s cities are battery and solar array units for lighting and entertainment.

The installed power capacity in South Sudan is about 131.4MW. Out of this power, 42MW is being used in the oil field at Paloch and 21MW is installed and will be operated by a private investor, Ezra Company Ltd, on a build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) basis in Juba by March, 2019. These private operators (Ezra and the oil field) are linked to the off taker, the government of South Sudan, and are directly contributing to aggregated power in the country. The total number of electricity customers in South Sudan as of 2016 is estimated at 30,000, with Juba city alone accounting for 20,000, where customers are on prepaid and analog meters.

The demand in the country is estimated at 300MW considering that the 10 former state capitals currently have a demand of 225MW and the additional states need 75MW. The installed capacity and current demand estimates are presented in Figures 1 and 2 – as low as these numbers appear, the demand is expected to increase to 1,400MW by 20404.

The tariff structure was adjusted in 2014 by South Sudan Electricity Corporation (SSEC), bringing the average tariff from $0.22 per kWh to $0.36 per kWh. The main aim of this adjustment was to allow the corporation to operate at break-event point plus zero profit. This did not work as expected. South Sudanese pounds started losing value and SSEC was unable to purchase fuel and spare parts for continuous operation.

The above tariff structure was reviewed again in 2017 and the current average tariff stands at $0.43 per kWh. This tariff is high compared to most of the countries in the region6. The average tariff for Kenya and Uganda ranges between $0.24 per kWh to $0.35 per kWh, just to cite an example of immediate neighbouring countries.

The state-owned electricity utility

SSEC has had challenges since its establishment. The Southern Sudan Electricity Corporation Act, 2011 empowers the institution by making it independent, but this has not achieved its required objectives. SSEC is often mistaken for a revenue-generating government entity as opposed to a service delivery government parastatal. Maybe its role is not well understood. From 2010 to 2016, I had the privilege of serving as director for sales and commercials at Juba Power Station. A lot was learned about how SSEC is perceived. When revenue is collected, it is deposited in a government block account as done by other revenue generating government institutions. SSEC could request operational funds but this took a while or was never successfully transacted due to bureaucracy and economic turbulence in the country.

It became difficult to buy regular materials such as fuses, conductors, insulators, and engine oil due to lack of revolving funds for daily operations. The lesson here is that the corporation can never grow or deliver tangible electricity services if it’s not made independent. SSEC should have administrative and financial independency while government continues to apply subsidies until the utility reaches stability. Unbundling the system is preferable as it allows for increased transparency in costs, transfer prices, and development of corporate structures that help protect public interest. Once the corporation’s liberty is granted, the best action for South Sudan is to unbundle the few power stations and networks.

South Sudan’s installed capacity and current demand estimates.

Harnessing vast hydropower resources

The Southern Sudan Electric Sector Policy was developed by the Ministry of Housing, Land and Public Utilities (MHLPU) in 2007 with finances from USAID. This policy had projected development of hydropower projects to cover the base load in the country. The policy also encouraged the government to invest in development of the national grid to connect state cities. However, this policy has been overtaken by events and will require amendments to be promulgated for national institutions to implement the policy and clearly detail the government policy on renewable energy sources.

South Sudan depends on 100% thermal in terms of power generation despite the fact that it is one of the richest in the region in terms of hydropower resources. Hydropower plant attracts hefty cost during its development but remains cheap and the best in terms of continued operation and maintenance (O&M).

The development plan includes the phased construction of all large hydro plants located along the Nile River. Most of these hydro sites are expected to be in operation: Grand Fula in 2035, Bedden in 2028, Lakki in 2033 and Shukole in 2040, following demand growth forecast, with conventional thermal generation needed to cover peak demand. All scenarios include Fula Rapids hydroelectric project (41MW), in 2021, with limited unit capacity to meet the current demand in Juba as envisaged and the Juba Barrage project (120MW) in 2026. Time needed for project construction creates a requirement for a certain amount of imports, probably coming through the Uganda-South Sudan interconnection transmission line. A maximum 150MW of imports starting in 2021 is the projected requirement as power demand in the country grows.

A study that was conducted by the AfDB in 2018 concludes that the development of South Sudan hydroelectric projects will provide energy at a substantially cheaper rate than current local production and lower rates than could be envisaged through interconnections with neighbouring countries.  Forecast demand growth seems to match projects’ development schedules, with some imports and minimum exports. The report recommendation for transmission expansion is then to adapt to demand growth across the country.

Hydro projects Bedden, Lakki, Shukoli, Grand Fula and Kinyeti are run-of-river with limited storage, implying lesser environmental impacts but higher vulnerability to droughts. Project Sue (10.5MW) is the only one with storage but at a cost of $244/MWh for average energy it is the most expensive hydro project. The benefit of this scheme is its multipurpose profile, with partial destination for irrigation.

The import scenario replaces hydro projects in the cascaded hydro potential sites with imports most likely coming from Ethiopia; starting at 100MW in 2032 and increasing by 50MW annually, to reach 700MW by 2045. Imports tariff is assumed at $80/MWh, including costs of the transmission lines.

Regional interconnection

South Sudan has joined the region in the process of regional power integration. There is a need for the energy sector to work in partnership with the regional utilities and governments to identify sources of reliable power for possible importation. Under the East Africa Power Pool (EAPP) and Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP), there are power exchange programmes that are developed for regional power trade. These are avenues from which South Sudan should be able to strengthen its policy on interconnector networks as the country develops its present hydro resources.

The Uganda-South Sudan interconnection project at 400kV, 383km AC, has particular regional importance, since it will enhance power exchanges between Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda, plus creating a loop to interconnections with the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The authorities of both Uganda and South Sudan have made it a priority and an MOU was signed on December 2015.  The line could cover the North South electricity highway and could also form part of the transmission national grid in South Sudan.

Renewable energy sources

The government of the Republic of South Sudan should consider measures to reduce the use of fossil fuel for thermal power generation, as it is expensive and threatens the environment in terms of noise and pollution.

The renewable energy sources are best for off-grid and on a small scale. The solar potential of the country is about 436W/m² per year. Wind power density in the southern regions ranges in the 285 to 380 W/m² interval. Wind turbines could do well in South Sudan. The areas of highlands around Didinga Mountains, Kapoeta Hills and water bodies like Shambe River have portrayed conditions for favourable wind energy development. Use of these resources, however, will most likely take place after the implementation of extensive national hydro resources.

Agricultural waste is plentiful in South Sudan. Both the rural and urban populations depend on agriculture and animal products. These are major sources for biomass plants. However, medium to large agricultural industries, like sugar cane production, are not yet well-established.

The country’s geographical conditions are also favourable to geothermal resources. These unfortunately have not been exploited. The area prone to geothermal potential exits along the rift valley around Kapoeta trenches all the way to Naivasha in Kenya; this should not be overlooked.

Hydro potential is high in South Sudan. The Nile River has large project sites identified. As mentioned earlier in the text, Fula, Shukoli, Lakki and Bedden are major sites to develop as these have the potential to deliver a total of 2,927MW as well as 11,852GWh of average energy, and 7,634GWh of firm energy.

Development of hydro power

The government of South Sudan has immediate priorities, which have hindered development of hydro power at least for now. The 2013 political crisis has had a far-reaching negative impact on development activities. Insecurity had deterred most investors and made many donors shift their investment focus from the energy sector to humanitarian efforts. Hope is raised by the signed revitalised peace agreements, which if implemented by the parties will revive the development spirit among the investors. There is a need to realign priorities and shift hydro power to the top. Almost all the identified hydro sites are run-of-river with limited storage and therefore negative environmental impact doesn’t arise.

Encouragement of private sector investments is important. The Investment Promotion Act of 2009 aims to provide investor incentives and protections in seven key areas, including guarantees against expropriation, protection for intellectual property rights, and mechanisms for dispute resolution. But is this enough to encourage major investors? In Rwanda, the government has shouldered the responsibility of exempting duties and taxes for most energy sector investors. This encouraged Gigawatt Global, a company investing in solar farms, to assist government in supplying electricity to children’s homes in the country. This is a good example to quote in this article as the project has worked very well for many years.

Juba Barage hydro power

The feasibility study which was conducted by Sino Hydro, an international Chinese company, revealed that Juba Barrage could be the only remedy to allay the shortage of power in Juba city. This potential hydro site is situated along the Nile River in close proximity to Juba city. The barrage is situated approximately 5km from the city centre. The investment cost, at the time of publication, stands at $490 million and the construction work is estimated to take five years.

The development of Juba Barrage can provide a quick solution to shortage of power in Juba and surrounds. As the country works on other areas in the energy sector, authorities should make this project an alternative to the long-awaited plans. By the time the development of this project concludes in 2026 (assuming the construction starts in 2019), the installation of transmission and distribution grids will have finished. Currently, the African Development Bank has financed distribution systems rehabilitation and expansion of the networks whose second phase will be construction of the transmission and associated substation around Juba.

The first power expansion project is projected to be completed in June 2019. The second phase could go up to 2023. Thus there is a need to focus on development of the Juba Barrage hydro power project. The Ministry of Energy and Dams and the South Sudan Electricity Corporation (SSEC) should strive for the independence of SSEC, initiate programmes regarding Juba Barrage and involve all stakeholders including the country’s leadership to prioritise the project for the benefit of the country. ESI

This article first appeared in ESI-Africa Edition 5, 2018. You can read the magazine’s articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.


1 SMEC JPDSREP report, August, 2017, Vol. 2

2 Electricity Sector Strategy Note. World Bank (2013). Pg10

3) MEDIWR, Annual Report. Fiscal Year 2014 – 2015. Pg. 44

4 South Sudan National Bureau of Statistics (2012). National Baseline Household Survey 2009

5 Cabinet Resolution on Electricity Tariff Review for South Sudan (2014). Resolution No.68/2014

6 Tariff Review. MED (2017)

7 Lawrence Loku.presentation in Oil and Power Conference. 2017.

8 “Hydropower Expansion Plan and Regional Integration Plan of South Sudan into Regional Electricity Grid – Final Report”. Hatch and Artelia. October 6, 2015

9 Southern Sudan Electric Sector Policy (2007)

10 Rapid Situation and Gap Analysis Report. UNDP, MED (2013). Pg28

11 EAPP Regional Power System Master Plan, Volume II, Data Report (2014), Pg54

12 Memorandum of Understanding on 400kV between South Sudan and Uganda (2015)


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