Small Hydro Power

Small Hydro
Power Program

In previous decades the energy sector in ECOWAS countries were mainly focused on large hydropower rather than small-scale or medium scale hydro power development. Therefore, the capacities in these sectors are unequally developed. The project pipeline of the WAPP Master Plan, ECOWAS countries and international financiers are targeting large scale projects, small-scale hydro power is not included in the scenario projections.  

In the last years small-scale hydro power (including micro, mini and small hydropower up to 30 MW) got more attention in the context of the endeavor to boost universal access to energy services in peri-urban and rural areas. Efforts are taken to increase significantly the low electrification rates using West African resources and potentials. Small-scale hydro power responds to these crucial needs. 

Small-scale hydro power (SSHP) – an almost untapped potential in West Africa – can address the challenges of energy security, energy access and climate change mitigation.  The main constraints for SSHP development are barriers related to awareness, hydrometric data, technical skills and capacity, policy and institutional framework as well as financing. The ECOWAS SSHP program was developed by ECREEE in cooperation with local hydro power stakeholders and adopted by the ECOWAS Ministers of Energy in October 2012. The feasible SSHP potential (up to 30 MW) in the ECOWAS region is estimated to be between 1.900 MW to 5.700 MW. 

The SSHP Program aims to contribute towards increased access to modern, affordable and reliable energy services, energy security and mitigation of negative externalities of the energy system (e.g. GHG emissions, local pollution) by establishing an enabling environment for small-scale hydro power investments and markets in the ECOWAS region. 

The SSHP Program contributes to the objectives of the ECOWAS Renewable Energy Policy (EREP) to increase the share of renewable energy (excl. large hydro) in the overall electricity mix to around 10% in 2020 and 19% in 2030. These targets translate to the installation of an additional 2.425 MW renewable electricity capacity by 2020 and 7.606 MW by 2030. It is estimated that SSHP could contribute 787 MW (33%) by 2020 and 2449 MW (32%) by 2030 to this additional capacity. 

The SSHP program also contributes to the objectives of the ECOWAS White Paper on Energy Access in Peri-Urban and Rural areas. In 2030 around 25% of the rural population is expected to be served either fully or partly through renewable energy powered mini-grids. The SSHP program complements the WAPP Master Plan which is mainly focused on the expansion of transmission line and generation from large hydro power and natural gas. 

Using the existing limited funds ECREEE focusses on key activities:

  • GIS Hydro Power Resource Mapping of all ECOWAS river basins: modelling HP potentials of 10.000s of river reaches on the basis of discharge, precipitation, climatic and topographical data.
  • Open and free data collection on the ECREEE observatory
  • Training of stakeholders on how to use these data for development of the SS HP sector.
  • Upgrading the hydro-meteorological network and training of hydro-scouts and hydrologists
  • Analyses and lessons from the few operative SSHP plants for use in trainings and manuals
  • Support projects development
  • Support countries in accessing financing of selected SSHP plants


  • Identified 146 sites for small hydro power projects (<30MW) with a total capacity of 1.6 GW across West Africa;
  • Conducted a regional GIS assessment of the hydropower potential of all rivers in West Africa
  • Develop a Small Hydro Power Strategy in the framework of the implementation of the West African Clean Corridor (WACEC)
  • Pre-feasibility study of the Kourougnan hydroelectric development project in Siguiri, Upper Guinea, on the Tinkisso River in the Republic of Guinea


  • Update the ECOWAS Small Hydro Power Program
  • Development of a Concept Note and project documents for submission to Donors.
  • Capacity building training on Small Hydro Power development standards for policy makers, standardization bureaus, and renewable energy project developers in ECOWAS

Under Preparation

  • West Africa Small Hydropower Technical Assistance Project (WASHTAP)

The ECOWAS Small-Scale Hydropower (SSHP) Program aims at four major outcomes:  

  • Policy and regulatory SSHP frameworks are strengthened. 
  • Capacities of different SSHP market enablers are strengthened and applied. 
  • Knowledge management and awareness raising on SSHP is strengthened. 
  • SSHP investments and businesses are promoted. 







Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa



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