Ethiopian Electric Utility is bringing power to all doorsteps

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Gosaye Mengistie Abayneh is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ethiopian Electric Utility (EEU). He discusses Ethiopia’s energy potential and the push to achieve the mandate of the power utility. Excerpts:

What are the major challenges facing African countries in power generation and distribution?

gosaye-mengistie-abaynehPower generation and distribution challenges depend on a country’s peculiar situation and the type of energy technology being deployed. Aging plants and network as well as poor maintenance and rehabilitation of energy facilities can also be major challenges. In many African countries, electricity interruption occurs on daily basis. According to the 2015 International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) African Prospect Report, 30 out of 48 sub-Saharan African countries experience power outages daily. Thus, the industries and the services sector rely on expensive diesel-powered generating sets. Ensuring reliable and sustainable electricity supply is a challenge for power generation and distribution companies. Africa has to raise the level of investment in its power sector to solve the power supply challenge.

Can Africa be self-sufficient in power generation and distribution by 2030?

Yes. Africa is endowed with vast untapped renewable energy resources that can provide electricity for all at an affordable cost. Hydropower is the least-cost energy solution. Next, are onshore wind, biomass and geothermal. Solar is also becoming feasible since technology costs are rapidly falling. Regional studies suggest that Africa will require 250 gigawatts of power until 2030 to meet electricity demand growth. In the short-term, five countries will dominate development in the African power sector. Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa account for nearly 60% of Africa’s primary energy use. Renewable energy generation potential is estimated to be 19,649 terawatt-hour (TWh) which includes hydropower potential of 1,844TWh; 3,800TWh of wind; 6,567 Photovoltaic (PV) of solar; 4,719 TWh of concentrating solar power (CSP); ; 88TWh of geothermal; and bioenergy potential of 2,631TWh. Expanding generation, including regional transmission interconnection, distribution upgrading and expansion are the main targets of African countries.

How would you appraise efforts of the Ethiopian Electric Utility towards efficient electricity distribution?

The Ethiopian Electric Utility (EEU) was established on December 9, 2013. It is one of the two successor companies after the unbundling of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO). Ethiopian Electric Utility has the mandate to build, own, operate and manage electric distribution network of up to 66KV. Rural electrification is also within our mandate. EEU has connected 2.5 million customers and ensured access to electricity for around 6,000 rural towns and Villages. Rural access to electricity coverage is now 56%. However, those who are connected to the national grid is not more than 25%. Ethiopian Electric Utility grapples with power interruption and fluctuation like other power utilities on the continent. Electricity demand is growing due mainly to population growth, socio-economic development and urbanization.

What steps has the Ethiopian Electric Utility taken so far to reposition itself for better service delivery?

The Ethiopian Electric Utility is committed to better service delivery. We are upgrading and expanding old distribution networks in eight major towns for better service delivery. EEU is also implementing the Enterprise Resource Plan to improve IT infrastructure, decision-support system and customer service delivery. Aside, we are installing smart meters, which is at pilot stage and also adopted loss-reduction strategy to change employees’ attitude. Equally, the Ethiopian Electric Utility is implementing change management instruments such as BSC, Kaizen management philosophy for better service delivery.

Ethiopia has huge potential for renewable energy solutions, but like most other African countries, these energy sources remain largely untapped. What is your country’s energy mix development strategy and investment plans?

Ethiopia is gifted with abundant renewable energy resources which include hydropower, wind, geothermal, solar and biomass. The Government of Ethiopia has taken initiatives to harness these energy resources to improve the living standard of Ethiopians and make Ethiopia the renewable energy hub in the region.  Ethiopia generates most of its electricity from renewable energy, mainly hydropower and that can be a problem considering we are adversely affected by climate change events such as El Nino. Thus, government is pushing to increase renewable energy mix to 20%. So far, wind farm is next to hydropower in terms of development. Interestingly, the 50 megawatt-Waste to Energy project would be commissioned soon. Independent Power Producers (IPPs) are invited to invest in solar and wind farm energy generation at a large scale.

What do you consider as the greatest achievements of the Ethiopian Electric Utility since its establishment?

Government’s main goal of separating the three core business functions of distribution, transmission and generation, and integrating them to form two entities is to ensure efficiency, consumer service delivery, mitigate quality of supply issues and accelerate rural electrification through dedicated management teams. Ethiopian Electric Utility is living up to its mandate. According to a recent customers’ survey, EEU has not only improved service delivery but also reduced power outages. We constantly maintain our distribution networks to improve service delivery.

 

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