Ethiopia has commissioned a pilot electricity product project at the US$1.8mn Gilgel Gibe III hydro plant
Located on River Omo in south of the country, the Gibe III plant has 10 turbines each with a capacity of 187MW. According to Alemayehu Tegenu, Ethiopia’s Water, Irrigation and Energy Minister, the trial power generation will involve three turbines with an output of 561MW.
Gibe III is part of an ambitious GibeOmo hydroelectric project in which the first two phases are operational. Gibe IV and V are planned for the future. With a height of 243m and a total installed capacity of 1,870MW, the Gibe III project is expected to increase the generated capacity by 234 per cent upon completion.
Even with a current installed capacity of 2,200MW, just above 20 per cent of the country’s 100mn people are connected to the national grid. A huge demand for electricity exists within the domestic market.
The majority of the rural based populace rely on fuel wood – hurting the forest cover through deforestation.
It is expected that the increased availability of cheap electricity will provide an increasing number of young people with an opportunity to start small businesses and reduce environmental degradation.
While half of the electricity generated from Gibe III will be used domestically, 500MW will be exported to Kenya, 200MW to Sudan, and 200MW to Djibouti. The country plans to have an installed capacity of 37,000MW by 2037 and become a key electricity export to the fast-expanding economies of the region.
Ethiopia is expected to benefit from the Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP) initiative aimed at creating and expanding clean energy transmission lines among over 12 countries in East Africa and the Horn of Africa.
Beyond Kenya, Sudan, and Djibouti, Ethiopia has recently signed deals with Tanzania, South Sudan, Rwanda, and Yemen to supply power, mainly from hydro sources.
According to Mekuria Lemma, head of strategy and investment at the Ethiopia Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo,) the regional power pool will increase Ethiopia’s export earnings and boost economic growth in power importing nations. Already, the construction of the high voltage 500kV, 1,100km long power transmission line from Wolyta Sodo in Ethiopia to Suswa substation in Naivasha Kenya is scheduled for completion in 2018 to commence trading in electricity.
Recently, Ethiopia Electric Power signed a US$19.3mn contract with China Electric Power & Equipment Technology Company (CET) for the construction of the 433km transmission line on the Ethiopian side. The funding came from the African Development Bank (AfDB) which has also loaned US$118mn to the Kenya Government for the project. The overall cost of the project includes two estimated at US$1.26 billion. Two converter stations will be located in Wolayta Sodo in Ethiopia and Suswa in Kenya. Construction will also involve putting up steel towers and transmission cables.
On the Kenyan side of the border, compensation of landowners on the expected route of the 437 km transmission line is currently underway. ‘The direct beneficiaries of the project are households, businesses, and industries in communities located in Kenya, the direct off-taker of the power. The interconnection with Ethiopia will ensure access to reliable and affordable energy to around 870,000 households by 2018,” noted AfDB’s Gabriel Negatu. Meanwhile, Ethiopia is also seeking to develop other clean energy sources.
Recently, the EEPCo and the Corbetti Geothermal Company have signed a 25-year power purchase agreement for the first 500MW to be generated from the Corbetti project in the Central Oromia region.
Corbetti Geothermal Company is owned by Reykjavik Geothermal Ltd of Iceland.
Expected to cost US$4 billion, the planned 1,000MW Corbetti project is to be constructed in two phases over a period of 10 years and will be one of the largest geothermal facilities in Africa upon completion. The project’s US$4 billion projects will be funded through 25 percent equipment and 75 percent debt financing.
According to EEPCo Chief Executive Officer Azeb Asnake, Ethiopia will connect transmission lines to neighboring countries to create a market for power trade. While the country has invested heavily in hydro-power generation, it has become necessary to exploit geothermal as the country falls in the Rift Valley region. The only geothermal power plant in the country of 7.3MW. It is currently undergoing a US$30mn, two-phase upgrade to attain 70MW with funding from the World Bank, Japan, and the Ethiopian Government.
At least 24 wells, each with a depth of 2,500 meters, will be drilled in this expansion.