Mondiu Jaiyesimi: On Ethiopia’s quest for a greener future (Y! Policy Hub)

by Mondiu Jaiyesimi

Mondiu-Jaiyesimi-new

Ethiopia recognizes its power challenges and it is impressive to see appropriate steps being taken to correct this which are also in line with the carbon reduction goals of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Arguably, climate change is a topic dominating energy debates everywhere you go. The ruinous effect is gradually taking its toll on our immediate environment and the eco-system with increasing heat waves, flooding and a decrease in the availability of fresh water to name a few.

Against this backdrop, It is therefore economically rational and expedient when one considers the amount of time and resources being invested in the development of greener and renewable sources of energy by researchers, policy makers and other stakeholders. It will not only make the atmosphere cleaner but help lead the transition to a future without dependence on fossil fuels.

Electricity Deficit in Sub Saharan Africa

According to International Energy Agency’s (IEA) world energy outlook, 587 million people in Africa do not have access to electricity with Sub-Saharan Africa making up approximately 99.7% of that figure. Despite the abundance of natural resources for power generation, most countries in the region still lack adequate infrastructure and sufficient electricity generating capacity.

Add this economic challenge to the growing list of concerns relating to climate change and one begins to understand the weight of the issue at hand. How do you bridge the gap between achieving economic development while maintaining a sufficient power sector without an unprecedented rise in green house gas emission? How do you streamline energy policies to focus on the development of renewable energy and still attract viable foreign investment despite cost constraints? Well Ethiopia, a Sub-Saharan country is doing a stellar job at trying to answer these questions.

Ethiopia’s Green Energy Initiative  

The key vision of the Ethiopian government is to achieve a middle-income status by 2025 and develop a climate resilient green economy. These targets and many more policy goals are captured in the Ethiopian government’s green economy strategy publication which has been made available to the general public.

One of the four pillars of this green policy initiative is the deployment of renewable and clean power energy- a strategy which will require substantial investment considering the upscale nature of inexhaustible energy projects.  In line with this, Ethiopia, in October this year, opened the biggest wind farm in Sub-Saharan Africa with a generating capacity of 120 megawatts.

The Ashegoda windfarm project, mainly funded by French banks will pioneer a chain of windfarms in the country billed to kick start operations in the next few years. The project, consisting 84 hi-tech turbines costs a sum of £179m and according to the Ethiopian government, future energy projects will be based on renewable energy in line with its carbon reduction plans.

Ethiopia, the second most populous nation in Africa and the world’s most populous land locked country has already witnessed significant gains in its human resource through the valuable experience gathered in the development of the wind energy infrastructure.   There are equally more encouraging signs afoot considering the proposed energy investment plans by China, India and Turkey in the country.

With all the plaudits being heaped on wind energy, it still doesn’t boast as the most economical energy source to invest in according to the IEA as it points out major challenges facing investment in this area. The sluggish global economic recovery following the meltdown and a cheap fossil fuel option in shale gas amongst others are important considerations.

However, on the bright side, renewable energy sources will still continue to develop as oil prices remain volatile and security of energy supply is still a major concern for the global economy. More so, recent improvements have been recorded in the cost and performance of wind energy so this will further encourage the Ethiopian government to maintain this policy initiative.

Sound Energy Policy

Ethiopia recognizes its power challenges and it is impressive to see appropriate steps being taken to correct this which are also in line with the carbon reduction goals of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In a country where only 53% has access to electricity, the government has impressed in not only attracting foreign investment but sustaining it. Its relationship with the French and Chinese looks to be getting stronger on energy infrastructure and the results are beginning to show.

Adding to the 120MW to be generated from the Ashegoda windfarm project, another 204MW windfarm is under construction in a different part of the country. One might think these figures are not substantial in the grand scheme of things, but to put this into perspective as far as the contribution of wind energy to the energy mix is concerned, in 2009 the world generated only 1% of its total energy from wind energy. This project is already the biggest in the sub-continent as previously mentioned and plans are in place to increase capacity.

The Greener the Better

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on the adverse effects of climate change in Africa, between 75 and 250 million people could potentially be exposed to increased water stress by 2020 and there would be reductions in yields from rain-fed agriculture which could potentially lead to damaging consequences on access to food and agricultural production.

While a green energy initiative might not be the primary objective of some Sub-Saharan countries which are still struggling with power generation using fossil fuels and other more economical means, a robust action plan to develop a sustainable power sector based on renewable energy will be an encouraging prospect.

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Mondiu Jaiyesimi is an Energy Economist passionate about energy and public policy, empirical research and energy finance. He studied Energy Economics and Policy at the University of Surrey and has done extensive research work in Liquefied Natural Gas markets, UK energy markets, shale gas revolution and energy demand in developed countries.

He currently engages in independent energy consulting focusing on energy modelling, climate change and trends in oil and gas supply in Africa and other emerging markets. He is a member of the International Agency for Energy Economics and the British Institute of Energy Economics.

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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