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Water and sanitation innovation for Rural Development Programme

Small scale hydropower for rural electrification

Article image

Marco Van Dijk, Jay Bhagwan

01 January 2015

Department of Science and Technology, University of Pretoria, Water Research Commission


Ephraim Phalafala

Policy brief

Department of Science and Innovation

South Africa

Rural electrification has the potential to improve the standard of living of people in South Africa. Universal access to modern forms of energy is still far from being a reality in many parts of the country. Many remote areas – especially small settlements, villages or farms ‐ will never be connected to a national grid, often due to their remoteness, sparse population and relatively low average energy demands.  Small scale hydro offers the opportunity for low cost and green energy options. 

Rural electrification applying small-scale hydropower technology contributes to the Government’s objectives of poverty alleviation and potentially also to local economic development through the provision of basic electricity supply to communities.  It aligns with the strategies of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Department of Energy. Although the institutional environment within which such projects are to be implemented is complex, renewable energy, standalone systems such as small-scale hydropower projects, can be implemented within this robust institutional and legislative environment. Understanding these protocols and policies will also empower project implementers to appropriately engage with all affected stakeholders. 


Website References

Built environment


Environmental management

Human settlements

Hydroelectric power



Local economic development


South Africa


Water and sanitation

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