Solar Lighting Up Rural Areas

We welcome the news that Ethiopia has installed over 13,200 household solar systems in rural communities across the country over the past nine months, as we believe small-scale renewable energy systems present a feasible and attractive alternative way of increasing access to elec tricity in developing countries . Ethiopia's electrification rate is notably poor - significantly hindering economic and social development - and the country's attempts to rectify this (supported by the World Bank) fall in line with similar moves by neighbouring African countries to use solar systems to power rural areas.

It was announced at the end of August by the Ethiopian Ministry of Water and Energy that, as part of a World Bank-funded programme launched in December 2012, over 13,200 solar systems have already been installed in rural communities that are not connected to the grid. When the project is completed (in November 2013) it is hoped that roughly 25,000 households will be supplied with solar technology.

Despite grand ambitions under the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation's (EPPCo) 25-year power plan, which envisages a considerable amount of surplus electricity generation for export, Ethiopia's power sector is presently underperforming and plagued by inefficiencies and a lack of capacity (see, 'Hydro Power Drives Export Ambitions', May 1). Addis Ababa and other urban population centres are suffering blackouts and a substantial proportion of the rural population remain unconnected to the national grid. Furthermore, the country's almost entire reliance on hydropower for electricity generation (over 95% according to 2013 forecasts) leaves Ethiopia extremely vulnerable in times of drought - a problem that will only intensify as power demand increases.

In Need Of Connection
Electrification Data For Selected Sub-Saharan Countries

As such, we view this development and the solar system programme as a positive advance for Ethiopia, believing that the use of mini-grids provide an attractive and feasible way of increasing access to electricity within the country. In fact, Rwanda adopted a similar initiative in March 2013; using solar instal lations and mini-grids to boost rural electrification (see, 'Electrification Plans To Benefit From Small-Scale Renewables', March 6) . We have long highlighted the potential of these types of infrastructure in emerging markets, and believe that they could be highly beneficial for Ethiopia, particularly considering the low levels of electrification and the country's hydro-dependent power mix .

This article is tagged to:
Sector: Renewables
Geography: Ethiopia