Ethiopia bids to become the wind-power capital of Africa

Ethiopia has made its aim to reach middle-income status through a climate-resilient green-growth path by 2025 very clear. Welcoming collaboration with domestic and international partners in different sectors, it has noted the fact that a conventional development path would, among other adverse effects, result in a sharp increase in greenhouse gas emissions and unsustainable use of natural resources. It has, therefore, put in place a Climate-Resilient Green Economy strategy.

This has enabled the country to register some sound and impressive development figures. In the last few years, a number of institutions have assessed the country's substantial developments and forecast advances in the years to come. The African Development Bank (AfDB) has estimated that real gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 10.2% in the fiscal year 2014/15. In its ‘African Economic Outlook Report 2016' the Bank also stated this growth can be expected to continue in 2016 and 2017. The World Bank in October 2016 noted that two of the major contributors of growth, the services and agricultural sectors, accounted for most of this, while the manufacturing sector performance still remained relatively modest. It said private consumption and public investment explained demand side-growth with the latter assuming an increasingly important role in recent years. Ethiopia also aims to continue improvements in physical infrastructure in the implementation of the second phase of the Growth and Transformation Plan, which runs from 2015/16 to 2019/20. This will be done through public investment projects and, among other effects, will transform the country into a manufacturing hub. The World Bank was firm:  Ethiopia has proven to be resilient and it has achieved impressive economic growth. It also stressed, that in the overarching goals of achieving development and climate resilience, as underlined in the country's Climate-Resilient Green Economy strategy, Ethiopia set four focus areas of priority: agriculture, forestry, power, transport, and industrial sectors and buildings.

Last week, the US news agency, CNN, reported that ‘Ethiopia bids to become the wind capital of Africa'. It said that Ethiopia, often called an ‘African Lion' by economists, was now a home of "booming industry, new infrastructure, and showpiece summits". Mentioning Ethiopia's effort to preserve its development trajectory, CNN reported: "to maintain this golden age, the East African state is pressing ahead with ambitious development plans, and renewable energy is core to the mission." Ethiopia utilizes diverse form of renewable energy forms, though the major one is Hydropower energy. The government has ploughed billions of dollars into hydropower megaprojects such as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River, which will be the largest dam in Africa, and the just inaugurated Gilgel Gibe III Dam on the Omo River. The recently launched Gilgel Gibe III dam which will increase the country's total installed capacity to 4,260MW is part of a series of dams including the existing Gibe I (184MW) and Gibe II (420MW), and the planned Gibe IV and Gibe V, which will add another 1472MW and 560 MW respectively.

The national strategy makes clear that to support economic development at the proposed annual growth rate of more than 10% to which the government aspires, it will be necessary to expand renewable power supplies at a rate of more than 14% per year. It's a substantial figure, but Ethiopia is on the move to meet this demand. This will be done primarily by exploiting its diverse and vast potential for hydro, geothermal, solar and wind power, all of which can deliver power with virtually zero greenhouse gas emissions. Given the recent devastating droughts, possibly offering a threat to hydropower energy, the falling cost of wind power technology and growing evidence that Ethiopia is blessed with ideal sites for harvesting wind have become more important. Three years ago in 2013 Ethiopia inaugurated one of the continent's largest wind farms at a cost of the $290 million, 120-megawatt (MW), Ashedoga plant. This was followed last year by the even larger 153 MW Adama II facility. This is set to expand significantly during the government's second "Growth and Transformation Plan." The Plan allows for total energy output to reach 17,000 MW by 2020, and, of this, wind farms will provide a vastly increased share. In fact, the government has plans for at least five further wind farms, and potentially many more, aiming to deliver up to 5,200 megawatts from wind power within four years. Communications Head for the Ethiopian Electric Power company, Misikir Negash, underlining the aims for the expansion of electricity said: "We have a program to provide 90% of people with access to electricity within five years."

Wind power will play a significant element in this. It also expects to deliver wider benefits for struggling communities through training and job opportunities around the potential new sites. Similarly, underlining a target of increasing wind output by more than 1,000% within four years, the Danish Energy Agency (DEA), one of Ethiopia's partner Agencies, underlined the country's vast potential. The Danish Government Agency serves as one-stop shop for large-scale wind projects across the world, and Special Adviser, Henrik Breum, stressed capacity should enable it to be "a dominant wind nation in the region." He added: Ethiopia "has very good winds in the dry season which is normally when you would like to top up electricity production…From a wind perspective this is one of the most promising countries on the continent." Mr. Breum said: "Hopefully this can show neighboring countries that low carbon development of the power sector is possible," adding, "I think Ethiopia can be a very good showcase for renewables". CNN noted, in considering the benefits to the Horn of Africa, that increased wind-power plants would be likely to strengthen Ethiopia's position in the region through trade. The country is already an exporter of energy to neighbors such as Djibouti, and Sudan, and wind power will offer new options.