20 June 2018

Ethiopia: Huge Works Ahead to Fully Harness Renewable Energy - Ministry

ADDIS ABABA - Although Ethiopia has made huge headway in terms of exploiting its renewable energy potential, there are still huge amount of work to be done to fully harness the country's vast potential, according to a government energy expert.

Speaking to The Ethiopian Herald, Sahele Tameru, Director of Energy Research and Development with Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, stated that Ethiopia is not only increasing its use of renewable energy sources, the country is also working to optimize its generation mix and meet nation's energy needs.

Relatively speaking, the Director said, the country is in a better position in terms of focusing on harnessing renewable energy sources, as many countries are trying to learn from our experience as benchmark. For instance, Ethiopia used to generate up to only 400 MW of electric power from its hydro power potential, twenty or so years ago, but the country is now able to generate up to 4300 MW from the same source, he added. "Nevertheless, we have long way to go in terms of exploiting our potential in renewable energy."

In addition to having immense hydro-power potential, Ethiopia also has huge wealth of wind, solar and geothermal energy. And according to Sahele, this puts Ethiopia in unique position when it comes to its (energy) generation mix.

In their nature, solar and wind energy are complementary to our hydro resources, which is important considering that you need to create a balance between all the sources in order to make the (power) system reliable, he explained.

Ethiopia has a dry and wet season. In the dry season there is a high wind, and in the wet not so much wind, but a lot of water/hydro-power, which can be used interchangeably to create a reliable power supply system to the country.

The Director indicated that currently system integration study is being undertaken. When completed, it is expected to give the country a framework to incorporate its hydro, solar, wind and geothermal energy sources optimally, and effectively. "It will enable us to know what percent of wind or solar or hydro energy we should be exploiting interchangeably so that we optimally exploit our renewable energy sources whilst regaining power reliability," he further noted.

Sahele also said that the study will also assess how far it can be pushed further. "For instance, we generate more than 300 MW from wind and the system can easily incorporate this, but the study will let us know how much more we can integrate from each of our renewable sources in 5, 10 years; what combination brings us the optimum result, bit technically and economically."

He noted that harnessing the country's solar and wind potential fully is a daunting task as there is technical limit and their technology, in relative terms, are expensive. "But, their price in the energy market has drastically lowered in the last two and three years. Now it has become cheap to generate 1 KW of solar and wind energy."

Moreover, as per its Green Economy Strategy, CRGE, Ethiopia is aiming to develop various types of energy sources to have optimal energy generation mix and have reliable power supply in order to be ready for future negative impacts of climate change. To this end, and as a country that is trying to transform its economy to an industrial one, efforts are underway to further develop nation's renewable energy sources and generation mix, and provide reliable power supply to the people, he concluded.

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