29 January 2016

East Africa: Energy As a Driving Force for Regional Integration

Photo: Jonathan Ernst/World Bank
File photo.

History tells us that the role of energy to ensure the multifaceted growth of the economically advanced countries is immense. When scientific revolution evolved through time, the exploration of energy sources for development also rose. On the other hand, most developing countries which did not fully exploit their energy sources forced to purchase energy from other countries and spend huge amount of hard currency which would have been spent for their own development scheme.

Because of the lack of energy, under developed countries resorted to utilize bio mass energy which heavily compromise vegetation cover and forest; as the result, soil erosion, land degradation and dwindling of water sources become rampant. This in turn, endanger the agriculture sector which is very means of livelihood. Hence, exploring renewable energy sources which comes from hydro, geothermal, wind, natural gas and bio energy is vital.

Cognizant of this, the government of Ethiopia, long ago, has been investing its finance, technology, human resource and time for the development the sector and much has been achieved. But in order to meet the nation's development ambition, that underlined industrial led economy, more works must be done in the future. Here it has to be known that energy can serve as a means of development and it is an end by itself.

All economic sectors such as agriculture, industry and service utilize energy as an input and without it, running their day to day business is impossible. On the other hand, energy makes countries economically powerful and politically influential.

Currently, Ethiopia is engaged not only on energy exploration but also supplying it to the neighboring countries such as Sudan, Djibouti and Kenya. And such practice is expected to contribute to regional integration. Inspired by this, ten East African countries established power pool known as East African Power Pool (EAPP). These countries, though they have abundant energy sources due to limited knowledge, technology and finance, did not fully exploit the resources. And they still suffer from lack of energy and economic retardation. Hence, the establishment of the Pool is timely.

Recently, when the EAPP string committee meeting took place here in Addis, the Ethiopian Electric Power Chief Executive engineer Azeb Asnake said that the Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) has a tradition of intensive power infrastructure development for both regional integration and the expansion of the domestic network. In this regard, EEP has been and will continue to be an active player in several endeavors that are aimed at creating conducive and enabling regional environment for trade optimal development of energy resources. Since its establishment, EAPP has accomplished tremendous works including the development of the master plan, interconnection code and standards to be compiled by members utilities.

Power generation, in addition to various benefits to the countries, has a capacity in attracting foreign investment, technology and knowledge transfer. In this regard, EAPP, with the support of development partners, has been working to ensure smooth operation and interconnection system.

In order to meet the objectives of EAPP, a mini market operating platform has been developed and pilot trading exercise which involves real power flow implemented with full participation of the operation committee.

The Secretary General of EAPP Lebbi Mwendavaue Kisirtu Changullah on his part said that recognizing the benefits of power system inter-connectivity the Eastern African Region decided to invest in the operation of power system. He further said that once the ongoing interconnection projects in the region which are expected to be commissioned between 2017 and 2018 are achieved. According to Changullah the EAPP needs to build the required institutional capacity within the next 2-3 years to ensure effective coordination. Along with harmonization of technical and commercial rules of practice, market plat forms, communication links between members and up grade of the national grid system to ensure that, individual countries are to function as one on common operational and commercial platform.

He further said that an important feature of activities has been achieved with full involvement of EAPP technical organs as part of the move towards capacity building .The system operation, power market and regional planning studies were done with the full participation of the planing and operations technical committee.

In sum, eastern African region economic integration can create good opportunity for sustainable development and in order to ensure this, the strengthening of EAPP is helpful.

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