RES4Med&Africa: Ethiopia rises to the challenge of energy transition

Published on Friday, 15 March 2019

“We’re committed to constantly update our decisional process to create a favorable environment for investments, by supporting an efficient and rapid completion of the planned infrastructure works in order to meet Ethiopia’s growing demand for electricity.”

– Frehiwot Woldehanna, Secretary of water, irrigation and energy

Enel Green Power, a global leader in renewables, attended the workshop to outline its experience and know-how. 

“For Ethiopia, investing in renewables is the best course of action for at least six reasons: they’re economically more competitive than fossil fuels, have shorter constructions schedules with a more flexible output, they have a very low carbon footprint, increase the resilience of the network grid while creating new jobs.”

– Carlo Zorzoli - Head of Business Development, EGP

Ethiopia’s future goes renewable

Ethiopia holds Africa’s largest fresh water resources: a valuable asset that allowed this African country to greatly develop hydroelectric energy, currently representing 85% of the total installed capacity.

In recent times, however, droughts have plagued Ethiopia’s hydroelectric system, causing widespread energy shortages. This dire situation is only made worse by the electrification rates which stand at a comfortable 85% in urban areas but fall to a dismal 10% in rural areas.  Therefore, only 25% of Ethiopians have access to electricity.

On a brighter note, Ethiopia is experiencing strong and sustained economic growth, although this uptrend entails both a surge in population and energy demand.

In such a varying environment, the Ethiopian government looks to overcome its dependency on hydro by tapping other renewable sources from its treasure-trove of natural resources, with the double goal of diversifying its energy generation mix while improving the electrification rates. 

“We need to adopt policies that favor the implementation of renewable energy programs in Africa, while clearing the way for private investors to effectively deliver on their commitment towards energy transition programs in the continent.”

– Vera Songwe, executive secretary of UN’s economic commission for Africa (UNECA)

Enel Green Power is already in the midst of a long-term partnership with Ethiopia that first generated tangible results in 2017, having secured a tender for the construction of the 100 MW Metehara solar park, located 200 km from Addis Abeba.

Integrating renewable energy

The Addis Abeba meeting proved to be the ideal stage to showcase the  Integration of variable Renewable Energy in the National Electric System of Ethiopia” report, co-authored by RES4Med&Africa and Enel Foundation on behalf of EEP, the country’s national energy utility.  

“Since we launched RES4Med&Africa in 2016, our relationship with Ethiopia has grown stronger and stronger. We’re now back in the country to share our research paper with government officials in order to help them transition efficiently towards renewable sources other than hydro.”

– Roberto Vigotti, secretary general of RES4Med& Africa

This white paper is tasked with analyzing how new renewable power stations will impact on the grid network, while estimating just how much solar and wind capacity today’s infrastructure can withstand without compromising its stability. Moreover, the paper also serves as an in depth technical study for the Ethiopian government to exploit as a planning tool for future investment in its energy infrastructure.

RES4Africa has already issued similar reports for other African countries like Algeria (2016), Kenya (2017) and, in partnership with Enel Foundation, other than the recently-published Ethiopian report, is currently putting the finishing touches to its Zambia report. This collection of scientific papers is setting the course for Africa’s ongoing transition towards its renewable and sustainable future.