Ethiopia looks to become a powerhouse of the region in renewable energy. The nation has launched the continent’s largest hydro-power and wind-farm projects in a bid to rapidly boost its generating capacity over the next three to five years. The Ashegoda Wind Farm, and the Grand Renaissance Dam which is under construction on the River Abay, are just two of the major projects outlined in the Ethiopian government‘s five-year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP). Both developments will see Ethiopia’s transition into one of the regions biggest energy exporters as electric output surges from 2,000 megawatts (MW) to 10,000 MW. More than half of this is expected to come from the Renaissance Dam. And with further commitments to geothermal power, Ethiopia’s energy resources are set to be among the most diversified in Africa.
This being the case, on the other hand, the country’s is registering a rapid economic growth which in turn is creating new and widely dispersed centres of high electricity demand. These are necessitated to power industrial zones, large mechanized irrigation farms, national railways, real estate developments, and also rural towns and village communities on which the country’s future economic well-being highly depends on. In parallel to domestic developments, the country has signed multilateral and bilateral agreements with its neighbors and the region at large to build power system interconnections and create markets for its abundant energy potential.
However, according to Mehiret Debebe, the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPC), CEO, the power sector’s current state so far is incapable of meeting the supply and service demand of the rapidly growing economy. In particular shortages of transmission and distribution capacities as well technology have alternatively been a problem and an impending factor to achieve the expected standard.
Recently a two-day workshop was held on the Ethiopian Power System Expansion Master-Plan study for the next 25 years . The Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation with the International Development Assistance (IDA) hired Parson Brinkerhoff UK through competitive bidding to undertake the highly required power system master plan update study.
Mehiret on the occasion noted that the government recognizing the above deficiencies, has allocated significant portion of its financial resource to enhance the sector’s power supply capacity in areas of generation, transmission, distribution and rural electrification.
Taking note of the technological and multidisciplinary advancement the sector reached today in other parts of the world, it is clear that the expansion requirement cannot be achieved in the conventional way. The state of art new technologies introduction within the biomass, wind and solar power generation options, AC and DC extra high voltage transmission line and Flexible AC Transmission System (FACTS) with ICT applications and qualified human resource are required for proper and reliable operation of the rapidly growing power system. As to the CEO, when noting the huge investment involved and also the complexities expected in the coming expansion process, the need for rigorous update of the existing power system expansion master plan becomes evident.
He further noted that the main objective of the study is to develop the least cost transmission and generation expansion plan for the rest 25 years. “The contract has also bestowed huge responsibility to the consultant to capacitate EEPCo with the appropriate staff skill, software resource and also power system database for future updating of the study by own force,” he said.
The World Bank, through its representative also affirmed that it would provide support to Ethiopia’s energy projects. The Master-Plan study has been in progress for over a year. The consultant has already delivered the load forecast report which proofed with scientific rigor and models that the expectation of high demand could reach over 37,000 MW by the end of the study period, which is 2037. According to Meheret, while some 33,000 MW is for local consumption, the rest 4,000 MW is to be exported to countries in the region. Currently, the country produces some 2300 MW while many hydropower, wind and solar energy generation projects are underway.
In the interim report presented on the workshop, EEPCo and the consultant have documented their findings as to how Ethiopia’s power system shall develop in the coming years to meet reliably the anticipated demand with the least cost investment.
According to Mehiret the final recommendation plan centres on huge hydro power development, which the country is abundantly endowed with, and as energy mix incorporates wind, solar, biomass and geothermal plants.
Regarding hydro plants, it is stated in the volume three of Master-Plan study’s Interim Report that the installed hydropower capacity in 2013 is around 1.8 GW with twelve existing plants under construction and one plant under refurbishment. When the committed projects are commissioned, the installed capacity will exceed 10 GW.
Moreover, there have been many hydro-electric schemes proposed over the years. EEPCo and the Ministry of Water and Energy have provided information and reports for twenty eight schemes that reach an overall capacity of 12.4 GW. Some schemes are at the stage of inception study or reconnaissance study but for most of them there was a pre-feasibility or feasibility study available.
The consultant also has carried out an initial review of the various sources in order to understand the present context and development potential for geothermal in the country. The only existing geothermal plant in the country is at Aluto Langano. The plant is a 7.2 MW pilot plant that was commissioned in 1999, but was in operation for barely 18 months before shutting down when leaks developed in the heat exchanger tubes. The low capacity factor observed during the initial years of operation was mainly due to design issues and maintenance problem. It was rehabilitated by Geothermal Development Associate (GDA) in 2007 and currently it is generating about 5MW. Regarded committed plants, it is stated that the 70 MW Aluto Langano II project has a planned Commercial Operation Date in 2017. The exploration and field appraisal phase has already been completed. Drilling will take place first and be followed by an EPC contract of USD 230 million. The project will be financed by the World Bank and a Japanese company. Candidate plants for geothermal development were also stated on the report which included cumulative new developments of 450VMW by 2018 at six sites including Alulto Langano II and 1000 MW by 2030.
Then again, the Adama wind farm, completed in 2009, was the first wind-farm to be constructed in Ethiopia and consists of thirty four 1.5 MW Goldwind GW77/1500 wind turbines, giving a maximum capacity of 51 MW. The Ashegoda wind-farm (Phase one) expected to be completed mid-2013, and consists of thirty 1MW Vergnet GEV HP turbines. Phase 2 is due to be completed by the end of 2013, and consists of 54 1.67 MW Alstom Ecotecnia 74 turbines. Further, it also lists candidate projects. The report also included sections on solar and biomass energy developments.
In addition, not to compromise the system security during poor hydrologic conditions, the consultant has proposed thermal generation operating almost as standby with very low average plant factor for short term. High efficiency Combined Cycle gas turbines with higher plant factor are also proposed after year 2025 when the candidate hydro resources in pipeline with lower cost of generation are exhausted.
“This is an indication to the need of identifying other potential projects for further consideration in the future plan update activities as we believe that Ethiopia has more than 45GW hydro potential,” the CEO said. Even though not incorporated in the final plan due to economic and other complex reasons, Nuclear power plants were also examined as possible candidates.
“We have to give serious attention to recommendations which are within ten years horizon”, he said. “According to the plan we need to finalize feasibility studies for Gibe IV, Gibe V, Upper Dabus, Birbir, and Genale Dawa V and others within a very short time.”
Further, he added that “ we need to implement with a sense of urgency more than 15 hydro plants with a total capacity of about 10,000 MW on top of the ones which are currently under construction.”
The plan also indicates that 900 MW wind, 300 MW solar and 1000 MW geothermal are needed within the 10 years period. Moreover, more than 16,400-kms extra and high voltage transmission lines needs to be implemented.
The 25 years Expansion Plan requires more than 150 billion USD for its full implementation. This is a huge task requiring the coordination of resources from government, the private sector and financing institutions and other stakeholders who have common interest from this prospect full market, Mehiret underlined.