Ethiopia: Roles of the New Political Arena in Boosting Power Generation –

by Zelalem

The government made great effort to construct numerous hydro power dams.

The history of Ethiopia in the previous system is characterized by political upheaval and instability. This fact evidenced by violent that had taken place for many decades which cost the nation’s economy and millions’ of lives. The features of the previous regimes clearly indicated the political fragility of the nation prevailed for decades. The regimes instead of fostering open dialogue with opponents they usually took repressive actions only to retain their power at the expense of the country’s future’s and the chance to stride for socio-economic progress.

In the previous regimes, there were wars that lasted for 17 years against the will of the people and gave chance for the birth of new political environment which accommodates dialogue between political forces with divergent interests thereby begin to think about peace and economic progress.

Ethiopia is one of the countries with rich energy resources such as hydro-power, geothermal, wind, solar and biomass; but due to negligence, lack of vision, capital and political will by previous regimes, they remained unexplored and unexploited. From the water resource on average from 40 thousands to 50 thousands megawatt electric power can be generated and from that of geothermal up to 10 thousands megawatt could be produced. With regard to solar power, as the location of Ethiopia is in tropical part of Africa, it is endowed with big opportunity to generate abundant resource. Considering this reality and predicting the rise of energy demand, due to the economic progress and population growth, the government made great effort to construct numerous hydro power dams. To that end, it mobilized money from domestic resources; in addition to that, it secured loan from foreign resources and spent billions of dollars and only within a decade it built numerous hydro power dams and wind farms in several places. Some of the hydro power dams are Tis aby II, Tana Beless, Gilgel Gihbe I, II and III and Tekeze can be mentioned and the on going construction of Hidasie Dam (the Ground Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, GERD) further enhance the nation hydro power generation capacity. Wind farms have also been developed in Adama and Mekale.

On the celebration of May 28, the 25th year Anniversary, Silver Jubilee recently, the State Minster of Water Irrigation and Electric Engineer Wondimu Tekle said that the 270 MW hydro power generation capacity in 1991 has currently increased to 4200 MW; as the result, the electric power coverage rose from 8 percent to 55 percent. To ensure stable power supply, the government prepared legal frame to facilitate the involvement of private sector. According to the law, the government is entitled as the sole purchaser of power from the private companies and provide utility service to the public. To provide electric power to thousands of rural house holds and to strength connectivity, the government spent up to 1.4 billion Birr for purchasing accessories.

The government, in the second GTP, emphasizes the expansion of the manufacturing sector which is expected to play a leading role in the economy. As agriculture plays a dominant role in the economy, creating value chain to connect it with the manufacturing is essential. The flourishing of agribusinesses, small scale enterprises, textile, leather and sugar industries in this regard play crucial roles. Thus, to advance such venture power supply is vital.

According to Eng. Wondimu, the exploration of energy sources is not an easy task. It requires sufficient qualified human power, finance and capital resources; and this indicates the necessity of the participation of the foreign investment and private sector in the exploitation of energy resource. The recent involvement of the American company in geothermal power generation project near Hawassa town can be mentioned as exemplary and up on its completion, it is expected to generate 1000MW.

However, generating power is one thing and supplying to consumers is another thing; particularly, connecting rural populations requires hard works. The ruggedness and the mountainous terrains make the connectivity relatively difficult.

On the other hand, the fragmented settlement of the population make the work complicate and expensive. When he was asked that weather the government has other mechanism to overcome the problem in rural electrification, Engineer Wondimu said that to address the problem, the government put strategy to use off grid energy supply to rural areas. And for the last five years, the government imported 30 thousand home PV systems that are used for absorbing solar energy at house hold level and distributed to rural part of the country and such practice will be continued in the future. Utilizing solar power in rural house holds brings various benefits to the users.

The users can get sufficient energy for their radio, television and mobile phone. The solar power is relatively cheep and affordable. The other alternative mechanism to supply power to the rural population is through generating of bio gas from animal and human waste. It is understood that, the country has excessive cattle population and the abundant animal waste and could create good opportunity for biogas power generation. Similar to solar energy, bio-gas has a multiple effects. It can be used for lightening and house hold cooking; it is smokeless. Through bio gas generation both animal and human waste is properly managed.

In sum, the under exploited nature of energy resources of a country is a direct reflection of socio-economic problem of the previous systems. On the other hand, energy is a commodity which can be supplied to domestic and foreign markets so that it brings hard currency. It is also an infrastructure which supports the intended development. Thus, the effort to explore and exploit energy sources with the involvement of the private sector should be strengthened.

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