Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

4 August 2013

Ethiopia: Additional Units Ordered in Africa's Largest Solar Distribution Project

The largest solar panel distribution project in Africa is becoming even larger. An additional order of 3,700 solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels, worth 1.5 million dollars, has been made by the Ministry of Water & Energy (MoWE).

The Ministry has already spent 16 million dollars, borrowed from the World Bank, for the purchase of 25,000 panels. These panels are currently being installed across six regions.

Both orders have been made through the Chinese company, Poly Technologies. The project is funded by the 130 million dollar loan the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA) provided for the country's energy sector. At the time of its inception, the solar power project was termed the largest of its kind in Africa.

It is now forecast to get even bigger due to additional orders coming from regional energy bureaus, according to officials from the Ministry's Rural Electrification Fund (REF) Office, which is in charge of the project.

The new orders will go to regions that previously only received a small portion of the PV panels. Of the 25,000 panels previously procured, 26.5pc were allocated to Oromia and 24.6 to the South Regional State . The Amhara and Tigray regions received a combined 24.9pc. The rest were distributed to the emerging regions of Afar, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella and Somali.

Energy bureaus in these regions then install the panels for the interested individuals and cooperatives on a loan basis. With only 45pc of the country connected to the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation's (EEPCo) electric grid, demand for the panels, which supply power ranging from eight to 130 watts, is quite high. "In fact, we received requests for 8,000 more panels after installations began," an official from the REF told Fortune.

However, an order of this size would require an additional loan approval from the World Bank and the Ministry would be required to float a procurement tender. The World Bank's rules allow the Ministry to make additional procurements, on a limited scale, from a winning bidder without floating another tender. The 3,700 additional panels were ordered through this rule.

The REF plans to submit a proposal to the World Bank to gain access to more money, in order to make the remainder of the purchase. The IDA loan, available until November 2013, was availed to both the EEPCo and the Ministry's energy projects. The recently ordered panels will be delivered by September, according to an official from the REF.

The REF aims to meet the government's Growth & Transformation Plan (GTP) target of supplying 150,000 households with solar powered electricity by 2014/15 through this project. A 2011 study by GIZ found that the demand for off-grid solar power energy is 56Mw, but only 2.6Mw has so far been supplied. The 25,000 panels collectively provide only One mega watt of power.

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