The energy-water-climate nexus: Hydropower and climate change in Southern Africa: PHASE 1

• See here for details of Phase 2: Climate change assessment of the energy-water nexus in Zambezi Basin and SAPP


Climate change and upstream development impacts on new hydropower projects in the Zambezi

  • Timeframe: March 2012 – January 2014
  • Funder: Climate & Development Knowledge Network

This project is a research initiative designed to address the major uncertainties facing hydropower development in the region, and to deepen understanding among stakeholders of the risks to hydropower from changes in climate and increased upstream water demand. 

For 18 months, researchers from the University of Cape Town, the Centre for Energy, Environment and Engineering (Zambia) at the University of Zambia, OneWorld Sustainable Investments, University of Eduardo Mondlane, and Pöyry Management Consulting have been developing and applying a water supply and demand modelling tool for the Zambezi River Basin.  The research was guided by a Steering Committee led by the Southern African Power Pool and including the Zambezi River Authority, the ZAMCOM Interim Secretariat, Southern African Development Community Energy, the UK Department for International Development, and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network. 

The model was applied to two future climate scenarios, reflecting possible “wetting” or “drying” climates, and two scenarios for irrigation expansion in the region.  The results of the analysis point to dramatic potential negative impacts on major existing and planned hydropower investments.

The research team and funders are committed to making this research accessible and in the public domain, including all of the modelling.  This page includes links to all of the final deliverables of the project, including the Water Evaluation and Planning (WEAP) model and underlying datasets behind this.

The project team

  • Project research director: Randall Spalding-Fecher, Pöyry Management Consulting and ERC UCT PhD student
  •  Professor Francis Yamba, Centre for Energy, Environment and Engineering Zambia
  • Dr Harald Kling, Pöyry Energy, Vienna
  • Hartley Walimwipi, Snow Systems Zambia
  • Professor Imasiku Nyambe, University of Zambia
  • Arthur Chapman, OneWorld Sustainable Investments, Cape Town
  • Dr. Boaventura Cuamba, University of Eduardo Mondlane, Mozambique
  • Bernard Tembo, ERC UCT
  • Adrian Stone, ERC UCT
Climate change assessment of energy-water nexus in Zambezi Basin and SAPP: Phase II - See more at:
Climate change assessment of energy-water nexus in Zambezi Basin and SAPP: Phase II - See more at:

Downloadable material

Policy brief: Hydropower in the Zambezi River Basin at risk due to changing climate and increased irrigation (Jan 2014)

Final report: Water supply and demand scenarios for the Zambezi River basin. (Jan 2014) Lead author: Randall Spalding-Fecher. Contributors: Francis Yamba, Hartley Walimwipi, Harald Kling, Bernard Tembo, Imasiku Nyambe, Arthur Chapman, Boaventura Cuamba.

WEAP model (water supply and demand model):  This model uses the Stockholm Environment Institute’s Water Evaluation And Planning (WEAP) model.  This model is available for download for free to view the file, but those wishing to save changes should apply for a licence with SEI.  Note that the full model is saved in a zipped folder with all of the input data files (csv and excel) included.  For instructions on how to unzip and load this folder into WEAP, click here and search for “manage areas” to see how to restore a compressed model file folder.   Note that the surface inflow data for each sub-basin (i.e. csv files with title “SI1.csv”, “SI2.csv”, etc. are sourced from the Zambezi Decision Support System, as are the climate data files.

Hydropower assumptions: This excel file contains all of the assumptions on existing and new hydropower plants, and the sources of those assumptions (note that the full citations for the sources are in the Final Report).

Irrigated area assumptions: This excel file contains a summary of the irrigated area data in the World Bank Zambezi Multi-Sectoral Investment Opportunity Analysis, Volume 4, which was used as a key assumption for irrigation demand in the modelling.

Results summary: This excel workbook contains all of the data used to create the results figures in the main report, including the analysis of change in mean generation.

Master’s Thesis: The project supported the development of Bernard Tembo’s Master’s thesis on the energy-water nexus in Zambia.

Disclaimer: These documents are an output from a project funded by the UK Department for International Development for the benefit of developing countries. However, the views expressed and information contained in them are not necessarily those of or endorsed by DFID, which can accept no responsibility for such views or information or for any reliance placed on them.


• See here for details of Phase 2: Climate change assessment of the energy-water nexus in Zambezi Basin and SAPP