Renewable Energy for Rural Development – Phase 2 (RERD2)

RERD Phase 2
> Mozambique

From water to energy: Digitalization and innovation go hand in hand in developing hydropower in Mozambique

  • From water to energy: Digitalization and innovation go hand in hand in developing hydropower in Mozambique


Energia para todos (Energy for All)
The Mozambican government’s ambition is clear: Energia para todos. By 2030, all Mozambican households should have access to sustainable and affordable electricity. In 2019, however, the counter stood at only 29.6%. Mozambique, therefore, faces an enormous challenge. The country has a considerable potential for renewable energy, with significant prospects for hydroelectric and solar power. The north of Mozambique in particular has several rivers with great potential for electricity production. At the same time this is also the region where the population has the least access to electricity. "A match made in heaven". But why is the number of hydropower plants in Mozambique still so limited?  

The reason is simple: hydropower projects excel in their complexity. They are projects in which different disciplines and specialisations come together: hydrology, civil works, electromechanics, environmental management and so on. Moreover, building a hydropower plant requires considerable financial resources. Hydropower projects, therefore, are by nature not "a walk in the park". In Mozambique, there are some additional specific challenges. There is a lack of recent measurement data of the rivers and their surroundings. Potential sites are often difficult to reach in this vast country. Financial resources from government are limited, and there is little experience in developing projects with the private sector.   


FUNAE, the National Energy Fund in Mozambique, is responsible for facilitating and realizing ‘off-grid’ energy projects, i.e. outside the national electricity network. FUNAE and Enabel have been working together for more than 10 years on the development of renewable energy projects in Mozambique, both in the field of solar energy and hydropower. Within the framework of the “Renewable Energy for Rural Development, Phase 2 (RERD2)” program, Enabel and FUNAE are jointly seeking solutions to best study the feasibility of hydropower projects, with a clear focus on digitalization and new methods. This approach already resulted in 3 clear innovative ways of working.  

Solution 1: GIS

"This was a very valuable training," commented engineer Norberto Novelo after the intensive training on using geographical information systems (GIS) to analyse new potential locations for hydropower.  Enabel and FUNAE jointly developed a methodology to investigate new sites involving historical river data, correlation analysis, freely available geographical data and Excel templates.  Concrete key parameters, such as catchment area, river flow and power output, can be calculated and visualised using these techniques.   The great added value is especially that the methodology allows to identify the most interesting sites remotely and in advance, i.e. from the desktop, so that FUNAE can make the best use of its limited financial resources.  With this new method, five new sites were recently analysed, of which one with a particularly high potential.

Solution 2: Drone

After selecting the potential sites, the initial analysis needs to be verified in the field through measurements and fieldwork. However, hydropower projects can involve huge areas, up to several km2, often difficult to access. Here too, technology and digitalisation offer a solution. The entire area can be mapped in detail from a safe location by using a drone. Moreover, using a drone, a very detailed digital elevation model of the area can be built, which is particularly valuable during the hydropower plant design. This approach was tested in Nintulo as part of a training program and will be increasingly used in the next couple of years.  

Solution 3: River flow measurements with community involvement

One of the most critical parameters for a hydropower project is the available river flow. One of the biggest problems in Mozambique is the lack of up-to-date measurement data, so these have to be collected in the field. But how do you start? In Nintulo in Zambézia province, Enabel and FUNAE have found a great solution. Together with the local community, a small dam was built in 2019 to allow measurement of the river flow and water levels. Since then, every day, someone from the community walks up the hill to measure the water level. These daily water levels are meticulously recorded in a notebook and the data is shared monthly in a WhatsApp group with FUNAE and Enabel members. Subsequently Enabel and FUNAE, with the support of the community, carry out monthly control measurements.  The community also guarantees the maintenance of the access roads to the river so that the measurement sites remain easily accessible. Through this approach, FUNAE and Enabel have already been able to collect measurement data for the past two years. But there is more. The active involvement of the community of Nintulo in the whole process ensures that there is substantial local support for the project. The contacts between FUNAE, Enabel and the community of Nintulo are particularly close, and the use of the common WhatsApp group also ensures that any problems are addressed immediately.   Or, as the "chefe de posto", Senhor Renato, repeatedly says, "this project is extremely important for the further development of our community, Nintulo".  

What's next?

After the technical elaboration of a hydropower project, financing must be sought. In the past, energy projects were the exclusive responsibility of the Mozambican government. But in 2021, also due to the influence of FUNAE, the legislation changed so that private funds can also be used for renewable energy projects. In anticipation of further regulations, Enabel and FUNAE are already working together to develop new financing and management models for energy installations enabled by FUNAE. Because, after all, the end goal is very clear: Energia para Todos.  

Key data

  • 29.6% of the Mozambican population of 32 million had access to electricity in 2019
  • Enabel and FUNAE have been working together since 2011
  • More than 2 years of river flow measurements in Nintulo
  • 5 new hydropower sites analysed, of which one identified as high potential
  • Digital elevation model obtained from Nintulo area by using drone

Latest news from this project

No news