- Climate change is causing droughts, which, in turn, are to blame for the persistent power cuts in Tanzania.
- To address this challenge, Tanzania projects that completing the 2,115MW Julius Nyerere hydropower dam will double the country’s hydro capacity.
- Currently, approximately 95 per cent of Tanzanian households rely on biomass for fuel.
Tanzania power cuts are becoming increasingly common, with blame apportioned to poor infrastructure maintenance, drought, flooding, and huge gaps in the country’s electricity production.
The net effect is, however, all too obvious: millions of dollars in lost opportunities for families and businesses as they are forced to endure long hours without electricity.
The irony is that Tanzania enjoys one of the biggest energy potentials in Africa, enough to produce adequate electricity for domestic needs and exports.
“Maintenance issues and climate change-induced water shortages have caused a 400-megawatt electricity shortfall in Tanzania, triggering power rationing across the East African nation,” Tanesco explained in a media statement released recently.
The Tanzania Electricity Supply Company Limited (Tanesco) is the utility that runs the country’s energy sector. Other than a handful of small players from the private sector, Tanesco is the sole entity with a mandate to produce and distribute electricity in Tanzania.
Last October, Tanesco’s Managing Director, Gissima Nyamo-Hanga promised; “We expect that this problem will start easing within two weeks, and we plan to reduce the shortage by an average of 100MW a month.”
However, months later, the problem continues to take a toll on economic activities nationwide.
Julius Nyerere hydropower dam set up progress
Part of fixing Tanzania’s power cuts lies with completing the Julius Nyerere Hydropower Dam. Industry players hope that power cuts will be a thing of the past with the expected completion of the 2,115MW Julius Nyerere hydropower dam by June 2024.
According to the energy ministry, this mega power project is projected to more than double the country’s power output. The government has announced its goal is to produce more than 5,000MW by 2025.
However, even though Tanzania is well endowed with diverse renewable energy resources, ranging from biomass and mini-hydro to geothermal, solar, and wind, Tanesco has not managed to meet the country’s power needs.
According to, Tanzania’s current total power installed capacity is 1,602MW which is a combination of hydroelectric (568 MW), thermal (951.6 MW), and other renewables like gas (82.4 MW).
Since the country has natural gas reserves of 57 trillion cubic feet, Tanzania’s electricity generation comes mostly from natural gas (48 per cent), almost half of the country’s power generated from gas. Tanzania is the world’s 14th-largest producer of natural gas and accounts for 0.05 per cent of global production.
Again, thanks to its enormous and numerous water bodies, hydropower accounts for 31 per cent of the country’s power needs. Other energy sources in Tanzania include petrol (18 per cent), solar (1 per cent), and biofuels (1 per cent).
Climate change to blame for Tanzania power cuts
However, due to distribution priorities, most gas-generated power goes to industries, not the national grid. The common man served by the national grid is left to rely on the hydropower output.
Unfortunately, or rather, ironically, the total output of 1902.6MW as of 2023 does not meet the demand of 1,363.94MW as reported by Tanesco. Then there are the water supply fluctuations caused by changing weather patterns which cause inconsistency in power output capacity.
“The average electricity consumption per capita in Tanzania is 108kWh per year, compared to Sub-Saharan Africa’s average consumption of 550kWh per year, and the 2,500kWh average world consumption per year,” reports the International Energy Agency (IEA).
For these reasons, maintenance and bad weather, since last year, power cuts have become the order of the day. Droughts in Tanzania are increasingly occurring more and more often and in irregular periods due to climate change.
So it can be said that another negative effect of climate change is power shortages across Africa. Likewise, since most economic activities are dependent on power, climate change, because it causes power shortages, is affecting national economic output as well.
“The traditional dependence on hydropower combined with the droughts that are affecting the country, often result in power supply shortages,” notes the International Trade Administration (ITA).
It is for this reason that the country has contracted Emergency Power Producers (EPP).
Tanzania is also actively pursuing an energy transition policy from dirty fossils to renewables. Among the clean energy sources of power that Tanzania adopts is solar power. As a country just below the equator, Tanzania gets considerable sun periods all year round. This makes solar power a very viable alternative for the country.
“Sunshine hours per year range between 2,800 and 3,500 with global horizontal radiation of 4–7kWh per m2 per day,” details the ITA. It further cites that, in places like central Tanzania, 1 MWp of solar PV generates about 1,800 MWh per year and requires about 1 hectare of land.
To make the best use of this energy alternative, the government of Tanzania has favourable policies to attract investment in renewables. For example, Tanzania offers tax breaks (VAT and import taxes) for all main solar components like panels, batteries, inverters, and regulators.
To back these government efforts, the World Bank (WB) has signed a grant agreement with Tanzania valued at over USD 4.5 million. The money is meant to finance access to sustainable water supply through improved solar pumping systems in some 165 villages.
Then you have wind power options. Several areas in Tanzania have adequate wind speed for grid-scale electricity generation. With wind speeds averaging 9.9 miles per second at a height of 30 meters, Tanzania has the potential to set up wind farms in several regions.
To utilize this power option, Tanzania set up its first-ever wind farm in June 2020, in the Mufindi district, Iringa region. This wind farm can produce more than 2.4MW. Despite all these clean energy sources, more than 95 per cent of households in Tanzania use firewood and charcoal for cooking.
Biomass main source of fuel for households in Tanzania
“In urban areas, about 71 per cent of all urban households consume charcoal and about 19 per cent consume firewood,” the ITA reports.
This dirty energy source is not limited to individual households alone. Biomass (firewood, coal, and charcoal) generates about 18MW. It is also reported that the agro-industry in Tanzania uses biomass to generate its electricity, which has a capacity of about 58MW.
Then you have geothermal alternatives that have the potential to generate more than 650MW; “Most of Tanzania’s geothermal prospects have been identified by their on-surface manifestations, mainly hot springs,” details the ITA.
With over 50 clusters of hot springs already identified in the country, Tanzania has established the Tanzania Geothermal Development Company (TGDC).
It may be that with increased government investment in renewable energy projects, the country can significantly increase its clean energy output. However, at the moment, it is the private sector that takes the lead in renewable energy investment.
“Government support to private developers is through Rural Energy Fund (REF) which is administered by the Rural Energy Agency (REA) and in turn provides funding to Rural Renewable Energy Projects,” the ITA writes.
Tanzania’s REA is funded by the government using specifically money raised through levies on electricity generation and special petroleum products.
However, Tanzania also gets significant financial backing for REA from Development Partners like the World Bank, European Union, African Development Bank, USAID, AFD, and UNDP to mention but a few.