As the energy market transitions to smaller, centralised planning, the future of mega power project development continues to hold its ground. ESI Africa spoke with Elsewedy Electric, a company that has considerable experience in delivering large-scale renewable and emission-free energy projects.
According to Elsewedy Electric, over 100 countries are considering developing their potential in hydropower or solar energy soon. Thus megaprojects still play a vital role in the industry but are now planned in a more efficient manner promoting cooperation between countries and bringing international subject-matter experts into the regions.
Let’s explore one such project that Elsewedy Electric has undertaken: the Rufiji Dam hydropower plant in Tanzania.
Tanzanian politicians and officials first discussed the project over four decades ago. It was only in 2017 that President Magufuli’s government advertised bids to construct the dam. The award of the project to the Arab contractors and Elsewedy Electric Joint Venture will integrally make the link between Egypt and Tanzania stronger.
The Rufiji Hydropower project will not only reflect Tanzania’s prosperous future but is already recognised as an iconic mega project, envisioned and made possible by two African countries, Egypt and Tanzania. Experts in hydropower from all over the world are now working, or willing to work, with our teams to make the Rufiji dam an outstanding success.
Through this project, employment opportunities will unfold for local communities with the dam’s construction timeline as well as its operations later on. The power generated by the dam will dramatically change the population’s standard of living and boost industrialisation, hence the Tanzanian economy overall in the short- and long-term.
What factors led to the specific location of this hydropower plant’s construction?
Selecting the proper project site is essential to carrying out the best construction practice, particularly for a hydropower dam site. Several factors can influence the location, which for the Rufiji dam site include:
• An excellent topographical location along the river: The perfect place for the site is one where there is a broad and flat valley.
• The right geological structure: The rock structure should be strong enough to sustain the weight of the dam and water stored in the dam – all the visible and invisible forces.
• Construction materials: The rock formation and structure should be stable, and there should not be occurrences of natural risks such as earthquakes in the region. The rock structure should not allow the seepage of water and should be waterproof.
• Adequate available water: The flow of water where the dam will be constructed should be sufficient to fill the dam.
• Environmental: The site should have minimum adverse environmental impact risks to the welfare of those living around the storage basin. Those living in areas of construction or that will be submerged must, unfortunately, be convinced to move. However, there must be a provision of proper compensation and suitable resettlement areas. Ignoring this factor will reduce the chances of success for the project.
What achievements have been met at the Rufiji site to date?
Principally, hydropower plant capacity is becoming increasingly urgent to remain competitive in today’s market. Therefore capacity expansion takes advantage of economy of scale, leading to significant reductions in costs. The power capacity of Rufiji is 2,110MW with base energy production throughout the year and is set to boost energy production to the national level requirements when fully operational. Selected for its potential river flow and reasonable head with arrangements to store water for balanced utilisation during dry seasons makes the Rufiji project site very advantageous.
The topographic surveys and geophysical studies are complete, and the project is in the site preparation and mobilisation phase. Due to the barely accessible site location, new roads had to be constructed (Kipiti, Mloka, and Stigo) as well as the workers’ camps. The designs are also in preparation to honour the construction start date of 15 June 2019, which will last for three years.
What did the environmental impact assessment for the Rufiji Dam hydropower project uncover?
The Selous Game Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) as it is the largest remaining wilderness area in Africa. This area is famous for having a higher density and diversity of species than any other Miombo woodland area in the world.
The potential negative impact on water availability, wilderness and ecosystem were raised in the EIA and plans and procedures will be put in place throughout the project’s duration to counter those potential impacts proactively. From the inception of the project, we will measure and monitor the different construction stages’ impact on the social and biodiversity aspects.
The EIA includes identification of environmental emergencies and an emergency response system and training. One challenging element highlighted in the EIA is the identification of affected communities, the potentially vulnerable people, and how to compensate the local economies.
What other mega projects is Elsewedy Electric currently developing?
In the power sector, Elsewedy Electric, in a joint venture with Siemens, has undertaken the largest power plant in the MENA region: the 1,200MW Beni Suef Project in Egypt, a €2 billion combined cycle plant. We have also delivered two fast track simple cycle power plants in Attaqa and Mahmoudia, Egypt.
Elsewedy Electric positions itself as a critical player in the MENA market with flagship projects in the power sector such as the 1,087MW Layyah combined cycle power plant in Sharjah, the 800MW Aweer power station in Dubai, UAE, and the 500MW Diwaniya power plant in Iraq.
In Africa, many countries have recently seen power and energy projects booming, notably in the solar PV energy space. This progression goes along with governments’ policies to modernise their states and reduce dependence on fossil fuels and carbon-based resources. Elsewedy Electric is dedicated to bringing its expertise in power generation and transmission into the continent’s ambitious plans toward a cleaner power environment. ESI
About the company
Elsewedy Electric is a leading provider of integrated energy solutions in the Middle East and Africa operating in five sectors:
1. Industry: wires, cables, transformers and electrical products
2. Construction: power generation, transmission and distribution, renewable energy, and infrastructure
3. Technology: smart city and artificial intelligence, data centre solutions, and cloud offerings
4. Development: industrial and logistics
5. Investment: independent power producer and utilities