HOMER analysis of the water and renewable energy nexus for water-stressed urban areas in Sub-Saharan Africa

Elsevier, Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 155, Part 1, 2017, Pages 105-118, ISSN 0959-6526,
Caterina Brandoni, Branko Bošnjaković


Climate change, population growth and rapidly increasing urbanisation severely threaten water quantity and quality in Sub-Saharan Africa. Treating wastewater is necessary to preserve the water bodies; reusing treated wastewater appears a viable option that could help to address future water challenges. In areas already suffering energy poverty, the main barrier to wastewater treatment is the high electricity demand of most facilities. This work aims to assess the benefits of integrating renewable energy technologies to satisfy the energy needs of a wastewater treatment facility based on a conventional activated sludge system, and also considers the case of including a membrane bioreactor so treated wastewater can be reused for irrigation. Using HOMER, a software tool specifically developed for optimal analysis of hybrid micro-generation systems, we identify the optimal combination of renewable energy technologies for these facilities when located in a specific water-stressed area of Sub-Saharan Africa and assess whether the solutions are cost-effective. The analysis shows investment in renewable technologies is cost-effective when the true cost of electricity or average days of power outages per year are considered. Integration of photovoltaic panels, a wind turbine and internal combustion engine fuelled by biogas produced by anaerobic digestion can cover between 33% and 55% of the electricity demand of the basic wastewater facility, at a levelised cost of energy lower than the true cost of electricity. In the case of water reuse, the techno-economically viable solutions identified by HOMER can cover 13% of energy needs. Finally, we discuss how the proposed solutions could provide a large contribution to socio-political security, in both domestic and cross-border contexts.


Water energy nexus; Renewable technologies; Wastewater treatment; Sub-Saharan Africa; Socio-political security; HOMER