By Andargechaw Eshete, MSc
Tigrai Online, November 12, 2013
There were three major announcements, in the past few weeks, which have major implications in terms of changing the energy portfolio of the nation and in terms of advancing the government’s plan to create a climate-shock proof economy by the year 2025.
Last week, the government assigned two American companies to build three solar sites, each with one hundred megawatt generation capacity, in the eastern part of Ethiopia.
The site selection, due diligence and Feasibility Study, of the projects were completed earlier this year.
Now, the two prominent American companies, Energy Ventures corp. and Global Trade and Development Company, signed a contract to build, operate and transfer the three solar energy project.
This solar project, besides its power generation capacity, is expected to result in the creation of more than 2,000 construction jobs.
Chiefs of the two American companies underlined:
“We spent many months analyzing the potential for a large-scale solar project in Ethiopia.
What we found was Ethiopia has some of the highest solar radiance factors in Africa.”
“We are very excited to be the Project Developer leading this important project for the Ethiopia people.
The power that this project will deliver will clearly have a dramatic effect on the Ethiopian people’s quality of life.”
The second major news was the inauguration of Ashegoda Wind Farm about two weeks ago.
Ashegoda Wind Farm, which has an installed capacity of generating 120 Mega Watts of electricity, is built 10 km from Mekelle, the capital city of the Tigray regional state by the French company Vergnet SA.
This project is part of the Ethiopian government’s plan to generate up to 890 MW of wind energy by the end of the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) period.
The third energy related major development was the signing of a contract to build the largest geothermal power station in Ethiopia.
Less than two weeks ago, Reykjavik Geothermal, a European company from Iceland, signed contracts with the Ethiopian government for the development of up to 1,000 MW.
Under the agreement, Reykjavik Geothermal is to build the plant in two different stages of each 500 MW with an overall planned capacity at the end of 1,000 MW.
According to the company:
The investment cost is expected to be around $4 billion for the Corbetti project, which will be build inside the Caldera of Corbetti, which is located around 200 km south of the capital of Addis Ababa.
Geo-scientists believe this site to be one of the world’s most promising geothermal sites.
The agreement was the result of two years of negotiations between Reykjavic Geothermal, EEPCO and the Ethiopian government.
The Corbetti Geothermal Project will be Ethiopia’s first independent power project and the largest geothermal plant in Africa……
It will be one of the lowest cost and most technologically advanced geothermal facilities in the world.
The significance of these three major developments in terms of solar, wind and geothermal energy should be put in context.
Indeed Ethiopia has been making huge investments in terms of hydropower generation capacity under the 5-years Growth and Transformation Plan(GTP.
Even before that the government built several hydropower plants, including Tekeze, Gilgel Gibe ll and Tana Belese plants.
Two key components of the GTP, that is Gilegel Gibe 3 dam and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, are now 75% and 26% complete, respectively.
The hydropower plants take the lion’s share for the multiple fold growth of Ethiopia's hydropower generating capacity.
In 2005 the total hydropower generation capacity of Ethiopia was only 714 MW and the total power generated was only 3,112 GWH.
However, by 2010 the power generation capacity reached 2,000 MW and the total power generated was 7,689 GWH.
As per the GTP, Ethiopia’s power generating capacity is planned to reach 10000megawatts by 2015.
On the other hand, the length of power transmission lines across the country was only 8,380 km in 2005. But, by 2010 there were 12,147 km power lines connecting electric power grids.
Similarly, the number of power distribution lines across the country increases from 25,000 km in 2005 to 126,038 km in 2010.
As per the GTP, the length of distribution lines is expected to increase from 126,038 km to 258,038 kms.
The total number of registered electric power user households was less than 950,000 in 2005. But by 2010, it was more than 2 million.
As per the GTP, it is expected that there will be 4 million registered households connected to electric distribution lines.
With all these works well underway, it is expected that the electricity coverage of Ethiopia will reach more than 75% by 2015, thereby connecting Ethiopians farmers with the 21st century.
In this transformative endeavor to meet the demand for energy in the country by providing sufficient and reliable power supply that meets international standards at all times, hydro-electricity will continue to take key role for the foreseeable future.
As the government explained three years ago:
This objective will be achieved by accelerating and completing the construction of new hydropower electric generation projects and strengthening the existing transmission lines to provide improved access to rural villages all over the country.
An additional objective is to export power to the neighbouring countries. Modernizing the distribution system will also be considered, so as to reduce power losses to international benchmark levels.
To promote and sustain rural alternative energy development activities, efforts will be made to enhance the capacity and knowledge in this regard of regions, producers and consumers.
The distribution of wood saving materials and technologies throughout the country will be continued.
However, the strategic directions of the GTP are not limited to the expansion of hydro-power plants and building an institutional capacity that can effectively and efficiently manage such energy sources and infrastructure.
The other major component of the energy sector development is stated in the government plan as follows:
Development of alternative energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass, etc. will be integrated with the country's Green Development Strategy.
lt is planned to increase this level of power generated by four times implementation strategies are to promote a mix of energy sources by developing renewable wind and geothermal resources.
Following that policy direction, the government has been aggressively investing in alternative energy sources.
A joint steering committee has been set up under the Ministry of Water & Energy and the Environmental Protection Authority to develop and implement clean and renewable energy projects which can later benefit from carbon trading schemes.
So far, the total four projects identified and handed over to the Ministry are expected to reduce about 65,720 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions.
The Development Bank of Ethiopia, in collaboration with the World Bank, has announced that it would create about 800 million Birr fund to promote geothermal energy projects, while another 800 million Birr would be added as part of the World Bank’s private sector initiative.
Since last year alone, the Ministry of Water and Energy installed more than 13,000 solar panels that turn sunlight into electricity to rural households and also institutions like rural telecommunications stations, health centers, and health posts.
Now, these rural households and service centers are now beneficiaries of solar energy technology, which is based on distributed power technology as there is no grid connectivity in those areas, and will provide enough power for lighting, mobile phones, computers and a solar fridge for each household.
In fact, the program is progressing as per schedule to reach its target of installing solar panels in 25,000 households by the end of 2013.
Similarly, several works have been conducted in harnessing geothermal energy.
In this regard, the major one is Aluto Langano geothermal project which is located about 200km south of Addis Ababa in the Rift Valley Lakes Region 15km northwest of Adami Tulu Substation and the 132kv transmission line to the left of Hawassa road.
The geothermal resource covers an area of about 8km2. The resource area is located at an elevation between 1880 and 2100 meters.
The project envisages the drilling of four new production wells and to construct 35 ¨C 70MW installed capacity new geothermal power plant. Different studies has approved that up to 100MW electric can produced from the Aluto Langano steam field.
After successful rehabilitation of Aluto Langano Geothermal power plant started produce electricity since 2007.
Considering the daily production history and close monitoring result of the field, additional investigation has been done by the Japanese government. The result of the study has indicated that the field can produce additional 35-70mw electricity.
The 2nd phase project is planned to be completed at the end of 2013 and the 3rd phase planned to be completed at the end of 2016.
The Project helps increase the generation capacity from geothermal source and to pave the road to the construction of large scale geothermal power plants.
There has been several efforts to harness wind power in the past decade.
The major one is the Aysha Wind Farm.
Aysha Wind Power construction project site is located approximately 7 km south of Aysha town, 47km to Ethio-Djibouti border and 170km from Dire Dawa town on the way from Dire Dawa to Djibouti route.
Aysha Wind have 300MW wind turbines to be constructed in two phases which the first phase will be installation of a 120 MW wind turbines.
There will be 200 units of wind turbines each 1.5 MW capacity with a total capacity of 300MW at Aysha site.
EEPCo has been collecting wind data using a 10m mast since August 2007. Based on the data collected and evaluated, it has been concluded that the Aysha wind farm is feasible for generating of a 300MW wind power.
The commissioning of the 300MW Aysha wind project will not only alleviate the country power and energy shortfalls which may arise because of the fast growing of the country's economy but also give opportunity for energy export to neighboring countries. Moreover, the national grid will also benefit and exercise the benefit of hydro-wind generation mix.
Another major undertaking is the Adama I Wind Farm.
The Adama I Wind Farm Project is located 95 km east of Addis Ababa and 3 km north-west of Adama city was completed and started operation on started on March 31,2012.
The wind farm have 34 turbines with the generation capacity of each turbine at 1.5MW. The height of the turbine pylon (tower) is 65 meter. Production capacity of the wind farm is 51 MW with an average annual energy production of 157 Gwh.
In conclusion, the effort to harness geothermal, solar and wind powers is a key component of Ethiopia's effort to realize the energy mix strategy and to realize its vision of becoming the power house of east Africa.
In this context, it is relevant to quote the statement of Deputy Prime Minister Debretsion Gebremichael and Minister of Water and Energy Alemayehu Tegenu.
Regarding its benefits and implications, Minister of Water and Energy Alemayehu Tegenu, said that:
“This project represents a significant advance in our Ethiopian energy initiative and is now part of our comprehensive Energy Plan.
Given Ethiopia’s large hydro-electric generation capacity and now wind and geothermal power generation coming on-line, large scale solar fits nicely into our energy portfolio and will provide significant power generation capacity much faster than the other renewable technologies.”
Deputy Prime Minister and EEPCO board chairman Debretsion Gebremichael underlined that:
“This will be a significant step for EEPCO in realising our strategic vision of being the regional leader for power generation and export in East Africa.
We believe Ethiopia has over 10,000 MW of geothermal potential which provides base load power and is a perfect complement to our over 50,000 MW of hydropower potential.”