Ethiopia: Fast-Tracking Journey to Attain Carbon Neutral Economic Growth –

by Zelalem

Ethiopia’s fast-tracking journey to attain carbon neutral economic growth.


Ethiopia is endowed with abundant renewable energy resources and has an enormous potential for electricity generation. On the other hand, the country is one of the lowest energy consumers in the world. Only about 23 per cent of the total population of 95 million has access to electricity. As more than 80 per cent of the country’s population is engaged in the small-scale agricultural sector, the rural area, where 67 million people are living, has lowest energy access.

Although rural areas have few affordable alternatives to traditional energy sources such as firewood, the rural population knows little about the advantages of modern energy services. As a result, deforestation and soil erosion are increasing. This would be a cause for health problems such as respiratory tract diseases. Recognizing the fact, Ethiopia able to improve this situation by expanding the use of renewable and environmentally friendly energy sources.

Indeed, access to energy is among the crucial elements for the economic and social developments of the country. The energy sector in Ethiopia can be specifically viewed on to two major environs such as the traditional biomass usage and the modern fuels that includes electricity and petroleum.

It is obvious that the home energy demand in rural and urban areas are mostly met from wood, animal dung and agricultural residues. At the national level, it is anticipated that biomass fuels meet about 80 per cent of total energy ingestion in the country. In urban areas, access to petroleum fuels and electricity has enabled a significant balance of the population to employ for cooking and other home energy demand.

Regarding the actual energy usage for the ongoing development endeavours, it is estimated that over 90 per cent of Ethiopia’s energy source is focused on renewable energy. Ethiopia promotes the development of renewable energy sources such as geothermal, hydro-power, solar and wind to bring sustainable development and realize carbon neutral economic growth.

Recently, The Ethiopian Herald has met Water and Energy Ministry Senior Energy Analyst Yiheyis Eshetu to discuss on the prospects of renewable energy in Ethiopia. Accordingly, he said that the country plans to increase energy generation capacity from 9,515.27 GWh in 2014/15 to 77,343 GWh by 2024/25.

Apart from designing progressive plan, Ethiopia is on the right path in developing sustainable and carbon neutral energy technologies to register better achievement in energy equity and environmental security. The population is growing at 2.6 per cent annually and projected to reach 103 million by 2020. Thus, the demand for biomass fuels is expected to increase on average by 2.9 per cent a year.

Quoting the National Electricity Statistics Report, Yiheyis explained that 8,701.5 GWh of electricity was generated in 2013/14 surpassing the previous years by 1109 GWh . The final energy consumption has grown up by 2.85 per cent from 33,997 Ktoe in 2012/13 to 35,192 Ktoe in 2013/14.

According to the 2004 Central Statistics Agency survey, about 71.1 per cent of the total households use kerosene for lighting followed by firewood 15.7 and electricity 12.9 per cent. In particular, a higher proportion of urban residents use electricity 75.3 per cent for lighting, On the contrary, the use of kerosene and firewood in rural areas accounted about 80.1and 18.5 per cent respectively.

Likewise, the use of modern source of cooking fuel such as butane gas, electricity and kerosene for cooking is uncommon in the rural areas. But, the use of kerosene is common in urban areas and stands at 13.8 per cent following firewood 65.4 per cent. Urban households used charcoal, electricity and leaves to a level of 7.7, 2.4, and 5.3 per cent respectively. On the other hand, only 0.2 per cent of the households in rural areas are observed to use charcoal for cooking.

Regarding the energy consumption along sectors, Yiheyis explained that the households and transportation sectors are the two largest energy consuming sectors. The domestic sector consumed about 90.7 per cent of the final energy consumption in 2013/14, while the transport represented 6.3 per cent of the final energy consumption. In this regard, the industry and construction, and commercial sectors accounted 1.8 per cent and 1.1 per cent respectively.

According to Yiheyis, the current total length of the existing power transmission network is about 19,323 kms and 155 substations are operational to transform the voltage from 500 KV, 400 KV, 230 KV, 132 KV, 66 KV, 45 KV to lower level. The total length of distribution lines in the country has been reached at 183,000 kms.

These generations are meant to serve both the domestic and export demands. In the Climate Resilient Green Economy strategy, it is anticipated that on average 24 TWh will be exported annually from Ethiopia between the years 2011 and 2030.

Similarly, Environment and Climate Change Minister Dr. Shiferaw Teklemariam briefed that over 90 per cent of Ethiopia’s energy source is focused on renewable energy. In this case, the railway and agricultural works have been carried out utilizing renewable energy as the country’s growth follows the green economy path. Industrial parks are also designed to use renewable energy.

It is more fantastical that renewable energy is incorporated in the overall national plan across all sectors as the key component of the climate resilient green economy. By the end of 2020, Ethiopia planned to generate about 17,000 MW from renewable energy sources, Dr. Shiferaw said.

It is obvious that 70 per cent of the country’s topography is mountainous. Thus, it is very suitable and comfortable to develop renewable energy resources. As the topography helps to hold water and produce energy, Ethiopia reached a stage to become exemplary not only for Africa but also the world.

Dr. Shiferaw also stressed that the green economy path is the sole option to bring impressive economic growth. Recognizing this fact, Ethiopia is leading in planning and constructing large hydro-power projects from solar, wind, geothermal and hydro power sources.

In this regard, the electricity in Ethiopia’s grid is now derived entirely from renewable energy. Hydropower accounts for most of it with some wind power supply. But the gird reaches now mainly the urban population, which adds up to less than 20 per cent of the total. The country’s plan for the gird is to reach all rural homesteads in next 10 or 20 years.

In the mean time, Ethiopia is working for fuel wood efficient stoves and bio-gas, with solar panel to power telecommunication technologies in rural areas.

The installed power of Gibe III hydropower plant project will be 1,870 MW per year. The construction of two power generating plants downstream entitled the Gibe IV and Gibe V has now been planned. What is more, the Great Renaissance Dam, on the Blue Nile is planned to have a total capacity of generating 6000 MW when it is fully operational. The Ethiopian government is funding the entire project from domestic sources, including by getting money through selling bonds to the public.

Dr. Fatima Denton, Director of Special Initiatives Division to UN-ECA emphasized that though Africa has immense renewable energy from geothermal, hydro-power, solar and wind, Ethiopia becomes exemplary in taking the advantage and maximizing its potential.

To feast upon wind farms, the Ashegoda Wind Farm has started generating 120 MW of electricity per year. It helps to start diversifying electricity generation. The Adama Wind Farm, which is also now operational, and produces 51 MW of electricity per year.

Hence, Ethiopia has designed visible initiatives in hydro-power development, Dr. Fatima said. For this, the such resources are instances to ensure that the country would achieve a low carbon economy by 2025. It is also true that the government has had a very comprehensive approach in terms of establishing climate resilient green economy initiative.

As part of its plans to mix renewable energy sources in generating electricity and thus attain resilience against extreme weather events, Ethiopia has started constructing a geothermal electric power generating capacity of 1,000 MW per year in the Rift Valley. The first phase, which will produce 500 MW per year, will be completed in 2018. The second phase, which will generate another 500 MW per year, will be completed in 2021.

In sum, Dr. Fatima stressed that Ethiopia must strengthen its position to look into energy schemes such as forestry and agriculture that would support its vision towards carbon neutral economy.

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