Nairobi, Kenya, April 6th, 2008- Last Year Ethiopia had an ambitious multibillion-dollar plan to provide all its citizens with electricity within eight years (2015), as well as to supply some power to three neighboring countries, Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan a top manager of the state-owned electricity company said.
Because he said, Ethiopia can do because it has a lot of potential to generate hydroelectric power, said Mihret Debebe, general manager of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation. The country is the source of a branch of the Nile River called the Blue Nile, which is believed to have huge power-generating potential. The Blue Nile merges with the White Nile in Sudan to flow into Egypt as the Nile River.
But, today The Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo) on Thursday announced that it had faced a critical power shortage. Briefing reporters about electric power generation, Mihret Debebe, general manager of EEPCo, said that as part of the ongoing fast economic development activity noted in the country many factories had been established, adding that this had increased local demand for more electric power rather previous target to supply electricity to Somalia, Djibouti and Sudan.
“Factories which consume high electric power such as cement, textile and foundries have been established. Many new factories are being built and they need more energy,” Mihret said. EEPCo has 1,396,000 customers, 40 percent of them in Addis Ababa. Ninety-five percent of the customers are households and the rest is the industrial and service sector. However, the industrial and service sector, which accounts for only five percent of the number of customers, consumes 69 percent of the electric power.
At the moment EEPCo’s maximum electric generating capacity is 814 MW, 80 percent hydro and 20 percent geothermal and thermal. However, because of various reasons, including water shortage, the corporation generates only 600 to 700 MW. Unable to meet the growing demand EEPCo is now forced to start power shading.
Mihret said that the power deficit, at the moment, is 80 MW. “We are not the only country that is facing power shortage. South Africa is in a serious power crisis. In India and even in the US there is a power shortage. If we were connected with our neighbors we could have imported 80 MW,” Mihret said.
The increasing demand for electric power, coupled with the failed belg rain had worsened the situation. A turbulent time, indeed, awaits EEPCo at least until the rains start in June. Even then it can hardly meet the ever increasing demand. “Because of the favorable investment climate more investments are being made. This creates new demand. And power plants can not be erected overnight. We are victims of our success. This is a temporary problem. And let us all work together to overcome the problem,” Mihret said.
EEPCo is undertaking massive hydro-power projects. Tekeze( 300MW), Gibe II (420 MW), Beles(460), Gibe III (1870) and Fincha Amenti Neshe (1000). It is also to construct a wind turbine farm which can generate 120 MW near Mekelle town.
The corporation plans to construct more than ten hydropower plants. It is also to build geothermal and wind power plants. The corporation needs 124 billion birr to realize the projects.
At the moment EEPCo is using diesel generators and because of the escalating price of oil in the global market the government is spending 100 million birr to subsidize thermal power production.
Tekeze seems the savior. Construction on the Tekeze hydro-power project is expected to be finalized in August this year. The project was delayed because of geological incidents that complicated the task.
Access to electricity stands at 22 percent and EEPCo plans to increase this figure to 50 percent in the next five years. The country plans to generate 6000 MW and to export the surplus power to Sudan Djibouti and Kenya.
Sources: Geeska Afrika magazine