Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

10 February 2013

Ethiopia: Metec Ventures Into Solar Industry

Solar panels capable of producing 236Kw of energy have been put on display by the Ethiopian Power Engineering Industries (EPEI) at the Addis Abeba Exhibition Centre.

The Metals and Engineering Corporation (MetEC) has started assembling photovoltaic (PV) solar panels for the first time inEthiopia, after erecting a module assembly plant at a cost of five million dollars.

The plant was erected at MetEC's Tatek site on the road to Ambo, where one of the Corporations'15 industries, the Ethiopian Power Engineering Industries (EPEI), is located.

EPEI, which is currently carrying out MetEC's commitment to manage electromechanical works for the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (EGRD) and is supplying 400kV and 500kV cables to the Dam and Gil Gel Gibe III, commissioned the plant in April 2012, venturing into the solar sector.

It signed a deal with two United States-based companies, Sky Energy to erect the plant and Spire Technologies, a global equipment supplier, to supply equipment.

Sky Energy, not only served as a contractor but also helped to purchase machinery, input materials and providing training, according to Assefa Yohannes (Commander), general manager of the EPEI.

Select staff of the EPEI, flew to the United States to undergo a training program from Sky Energy. The company, which deals with turnkey projects in renewable energy, will open a subsidiary office in Addis Abeba in the near future.

The first ever solar panels were produced last month, according to Assefa. The panels which will be produced in different sizes, as needed, will be able to supply 20Mw of power, annually.

"We are targeting both grid connected and off-grid markets in rural areas of the country, to supply our products," Assefa told Fortune.

Ethiopiacurrently has an installed capacity of five megawatts. Demand comes mostly from off-grid areas which constitute 80pc of the country, according to a study conducted by GIZ in 2011. Grid connected PV systems may come in the future as the government envisions increasing its power supply by 8,000Mw from the current 2,100Mw. Of the 8,000Mw, solar power is expected to contribute 30Mw.

So far the supply for PV solar panels had come from imports by the private sector or large scale government procurements. There are around 15 companies that import solar PV systems in the country but 80pc of the sales are accounted for by five companies.

These five companies have imported a total of 415Kwp worth of energy in 2008. Sales for such companies, has grown by 15pc to 20pc in recent years, according to the study by GIZ. The supply of PV to off-grid areas is estimated to have cost 7.5 million euros in 2008, according to the study.

The amount of money MetEC is to charge for the solar panels is still unknown. The solar panels may also be exported to neighbouring countries, according to Assefa.

The EPEI unveiled solar panels which can produce 236Kw at the Addis Abeba Exhibition Centre, where institutions under the Ethiopian Armed forces and its affiliates are currently holding an exhibition.

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