21 January 2016

Ethiopia: Benefiting More From Geothermal Power


About 90 per cent of Ethiopia's energy sector is dominated by traditional biomass fuel such as firewood, agricultural waste and animal dung. This situation has created a constant pressure on the insufficient forestry resources of the country that cause land degradation and loss of agricultural soil fertility. While geothermal is the energy stored underground as hot water/steam, its renewable and environmentally harmless nature makes it one of the preferred modern energy resources.

These days, geothermal energy shows considerable potential for supplying people with sustainable renewable energy worldwide. In addition, geothermal power has several advantages. Hence, geothermal electricity production is a low option at many sites with a high natural potential. It also decreases transport expenditure, supply risks, currency outflow, and dependency on imported fuel. Acknowledging the fact, the Geological Survey of Ethiopia owns a central geological laboratory and two rigs which have been contributing highly to the exploration activities of geothermal energy.

The rapid growth of geothermal energy has created a new ray of hope as the latest projection indicates that the country significantly has the capacity to produce over 10,000 megawatt from geothermal power. Indeed, Ethiopia is known as among the few countries in Africa with a significant amount of geothermal resources. These resources are found scattered in the Main Ethiopian Rift and in the Afar Depression that covers an area of 150,000 square kilometre land.

Although the country carried out a 5,000 MW geothermal resources exploration during the last three decades, the recent study shows that Ethiopia could possibly generate more than 10,000 MW of electric power from geothermal resources alone.

Ethiopia launched a long-term geothermal exploration 25 years ago allocating sixteen geothermal prospect areas. While the numbers of these prospect areas currently grow to 22, they are judged as bringing double potential for electricity generation. Beyond advancing a good degree of exploration capacity in human and infrastructure terms, it is essential to develop the selected resource sites in due time to make use of the resource for the development urges of the country.

In addition to surface exploration techniques, the selection of prospect areas must rely on economic criteria and their strategic locations with respect to proximity to the existing grid and to regions of high population density. Thus, the increase of prospect areas can be resourceful for direct use applications in horticulture for maximising production in flower farming, and agro-industry.

Recognizing the fact that geothermal has been one of the best alternative sources of clean, renewable energy, the government has to diversify the country's energy resource which still depends mainly on fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal. With significant improvement in the steam power, the government and its stakeholders should be engaged in geothermal development as this sector will remain more attractive to investors.

However, the Ethiopian government works in collaboration with the Japanese government so that the sector should attract more interested companies to invest in geothermal power development for the growth of the national economy. Because, geothermal, like hydrocarbon resources, is highly risky, requires huge direct investment, and requires long time from exploration to power generation. To ensure cheaper power in the country, the government and its stakeholders should beset their efforts and commitments as a priority at all times. Is is also necessary to realize a sustainable and environmentally friendly geothermal energy development for poverty reduction and improved quality life of the people.

In sum, the geothermal projects being undertaken in Tendaho and other areas should encourage the sector to anticipate responsibility for its development. They are proposed to deal with advancing the geothermal resource identified by earlier exploration to the development phase with the purpose of supplying electricity to the national grid.

The installation of the 10,000 MW from geothermal power strikes new era of resource utilization without disruption in power generation due to technical problems. The government has to set up a funding infrastructure from various donations to finance surveys and exploration aimed at improving the geological resources of the country. It is required seeking to increase geothermal electricity generation capacity of the country through identifying and forecasting the possible impacts to the environment and the surrounding community. If government takes appropriate respective mitigation measures to minimize adverse impacts, it will not be longer to benefit more from geothermal power.


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