Ethiopia: The budding energy power house in Africa

The 6000 MW Grand Renaissance Dam 
WHEN THE NEWS broke out that Kenya has struck a deal to import 400MW of electricity from Ethiopia, a common question arose: Does Ethiopia have the capacity? Is Kenya wasting good money chasing for bad?

 That was slightly over a year ago. Now I know better. I have been disabused of my ignorance. Ethiopia not only has the capacity but the potential to supply the entire east African region with electricity. She is a sleeping electric energy giant-a country with a capacity to supply 67 per cent of Africa’s current population.

Ethiopia, which is emerging from years of communist rule and wars, is not only a champion on track races where her athletes give Kenyans a run for their money; she is a star performer in other areas: Her economy has been growing at an average 8 per cent rate for more than a decade.

 Consequently, the country of 90 million people has seen demand for electricity grows by 32 per cent a year. This means that her current output of 2500MW from hydro sources must increase four-fold to 10,000MW to meet domestic demand by 2015. And she is investing heavily in power projects. Already some 170 MW of wind power have been added to the grid.
The 120 MW Ashegoda wind farm

Among the projects in planned to meet this demand is the 6000MW Grand Renaissance Dam on the river Nile.  Construction of this project, worth US$4.8 billion, is being financed entirely by a long term bond targeting Ethiopians in the diaspora. This is a very large project even by African standards.

Further, Ethiopia’s potential in renewable sources of energy is outstanding in Africa and even in the world. Consider this: Experts estimate that Ethiopia's hydropower potential is 45,000 MW. Geothermal power potential is estimated at 5,000 MW, while its wind power potential is believed to be 13000MW, Africa's third-largest behind Egypt and Morocco.

 Now Morocco generates some 26000Mw of electricity from wind power. It was not immediately clear what Egypt’s capacity is. Some Sources indicate that Ethiopia’s wind power capacity is 13,000MW.  The 45,000MW hydro capacity is higher than D.R Congo’s Grand Inga Dam whose capacity is 40,000MW. According to CNN this is twice as much as the Three Gorges dam in China, currently the world's largest hydro project. The Inga dam project, once complete will supply 500 million people with power, says the CNN report.

 However, Ethiopia is way above D.R Congo in terms of potential to produce power. Figure this 45,000MW of hydro power generation is perhaps the highest capacity in the world. Add to that an estimated 13000MW of wind power and 5000MW of geothermal power, not to count solar energy. We are talking about MW of power 63000MW of power concentrated in a single hand.

 This makes Ethiopia the future power supplier for her neighbours including South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania whose power supply capacity does not come anywhere near.


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