19 June 2018

Ethiopia: Garner Solar Energy, for Better Performance

Ethiopia is a nation endowed with huge amount of water, wind, solar and geothermal energy potentials. However, regardless of its enormous potentials the energy system is highly dependent on traditional fossil fuels and biomass and only about 32 per cent of the nation's population has access to electricity. Given this fact, the country has engaged itself in unprecedented multimillion dollar energy projects in recent years.

In connection to this, the National Electrification Program (NEP) aims to achieve universal electrification by 2025. The objective of NEP Project eyes to increase access to electricity and to enhance institutional capacity for planning and implementation of the government's electrification program alternatives should be examined.

Dr. Gebrehiwot Ageba, Program Director at Ethiopian Development Research Institute, opined in recent day's electric coverage of nation is still low and stands at 32 percent. "While the distribution is higher in urban areas, it is much lower in rural areas which are nearly 10 percent of the national coverage. Inclusive transformation cannot be materialized as the energy distribution mostly excludes large section of the Ethiopian rural population. Hence, energy transformation should prioritize the rural area to bring holistic transformation," he added.

Nation's solar home system coverage is relatively low in the rural communities. Only 20 companies are engaged in importing the SHS technologies and 4 assemble manufacturing are operating in the nation. Solar Energy Foundation Country Director Samson Tsegaye said that even though Ethiopia has abundant solar energy resources, its national annual average irradiance is estimated to be 5.2 kWh/m. "We know that the solar resource is relatively lower in the most populous Northern, Central and Western highlands of the country while the rift valley regions, and Western and Eastern lowlands of the country receive higher annual average irradiance well above 6kWh/m.

"In my view, nation energy market is at its early stage of development. For about ten years, since the commercial market started in early 1990s, annual sales growth was under 5 per cent, however, in the last four years a significant sales growth at an average rate of 15 to 20 per cent has been reported by major Photovoltaic (PV) suppliers. Still, nation solar market is lucrative that is why Capacity building and awareness is raising projects in the past -even though they were uncoordinated in nature seem to have created demand for SHS in rural households and businesses," he added.

Furthermore, the establishment of the Rural Electrification Fund (REF) under the Ministry of Mines and Energy has also been a milestone for the solar industry quality checking equipments. Irrespective of Ethiopia's year-round sunshine, millions of people living at remote areas lack of access to electricity as they rely on kerosene, fire wood and charcoal as sources of energy. That could damage the health of the people and the environment as well.

Melessaw Shanko, Managing Director at MEGEN Power Consultancy, for his part said, "The energy sector is fragmented in various institutions. Access communities' grid is now derived entirely from renewable energy. Hydropower accounts for most of it with some wind power added. But the gird reaches now mainly the urban population, which adds up to less than 20 per cent of the total. Our long-term plan is to reach all rural homesteads as well in about 20 years," he said.

Melessaw said that solar energy does not only provide a sensible solution from a technical point of view. It has also the following decisive advantages: it is decentralized. It is clean and reliable. In short, nation should revise the alternative energy supply efforts with clear structure and infrastructure as well human power.

Solar Energy Development Association Chairperson Dereje Waleligni told The Ethiopian Herald that the nation's electrification at rural and urban reached has been increasing that initiates the establishment of working environments.

Ethiopia Energy Authority Communication Director Chala Bonsa said that the authority had learnt the emerging realities and working with pertinent stakeholders to address the challenges. He added, "To my knowledge, Universal Energy Access Program focuses on the provision of electricity to the rural poor at affordable rates is place experts questioning its affordability as well the clear structural set up of the energy sector in public."

In general, in order to meet the growing demand for power, the government has launched an ambitious plan to bring power to all citizens by 2025, combining on- and off-grid electrification that is backed up by state-of-the-art technologies.

The pertinent stakeholders should come together in tuning the sector to the right way that could give nation to mobilize resource and control quality on solar, geothermal as well hydro matters. Working in the fashion one size fits all could lead the replication as well as waste of resources as well as affects human capital development. So it important to place efforts in one channel intuition with capable that could deal with energy.

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