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Ethiopia: Biogas and Solar - Alternative Energy Source Focuses

Posted on : Wednesday, 23rd November 2016

 Ethiopia meets much of its energy demands from hydroelectric sources these days. Though 45,000 MW of hydro power potential under use at the moment, the demand for energy is increasing at a high rate. The growth in the demand is due to the ongoing industrial growth and rapid development. The fast economic growth of the nation calls for more energy even from other energy alternatives. Among the other alternatives that the country has not tapped so far include biogas and solar energy sources.

According to the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, the nation has average daily solar radiation potential of 5.5 kWh /sq. m/day and ample biogas potential in addition to geothermal, wind, natural gas, coal, and oil shale that the country has not yet properly tapped.
Experts in the field advocate that building an economy and sustainable energy infrastructures is very essential to achieve development goals of a country. And the Second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP-II) of the country has given considerable focus on exploiting all the alternative sources in close partnership with private investors, national and international partners.
The objective of energy policy framework of the nation is to ensure reliable supply of energy at the right time and at affordable prices, particularly to support country's agricultural and industrial development strategies. It of course gives high priority to hydro power development, which is considered to be the backbone of the country's energy sector. And the policy also gives attention to the development of wind, geothermal and solar bio-fuels for transport and household uses.
According to Mesfin Dabi, analyst in the field of energy, maximizing the utilization of the country's hydro, wind, solar, biogas and geothermal resources, developing fuel efficient stoves, reducing the role of hydrocarbon fuels in industry and transport are things that have also been given focus in the energy policy.
'Bio gas' is combustible gas produced from anaerobic digestion of organic 'wastes' (crop, animal and human waste). It has ample advantages in improving health, nutrition and air pollution. It is also crucial for environmental protection through reducing deforestation and environmental degradation.
Ethiopia has the largest number of cattle in Africa that can serve as the major source of biogas. It is a member of the African Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP) which contains five Africa countries: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. ABPP is funded by the Netherlands Government and also co-funded by respective governments in some countries. Ethiopia is working to realize the continental and national efforts of improving the livelihood of rural households. The National Biogas Programme of Ethiopia is a commercially viable biogas sector. According to National Biogas Programme Manager Temesgen Tefera, biodigester technology is proven to be useful and feasible in Ethiopia.
The manager said that about 60 per cent of cooking fuel in Ethiopia is used for baking injera. "There is a huge potential (over 4 million households technically qualify) as an opportunity of using biogas in the nation which is a very good reason to expanding biogas at a speedy level. Besides there is a national ownership and commitment readiness at both the federal and regional levels to implement such projects."
The other untapped energy potential source that should be retold is the sun. From our previous knowledge of science we know that it is the largest object in our Solar System which provides the earth with unfathomable amounts of energy.
Converting the sun's light into electricity through the use of PV to supply power was first discovered as early as 1800 by the Italian Physicist and Chemist Alessandra Volta. And then the pace of advancement accelerated and the year 1954 saw the genesis of the commercial solar age through the creation of the first high powered silicon photo voltaic cell. After that Italy, Germany, USA, Japan, China among others were heading towards the development.
The first large installation of solar in Ethiopia was conducted in Mitto village with a mini-grid of 10 kW in 1985, expanded to 30 kW in 1989, by the former Ministry of Mines and Energy. Before 2008 almost the major solar power application was used for telecommunications. A solar panel assembly plant then was opened around the suburb of Addis Ababa in early 2013 which is capable of manufacturing 20 MW of panel per year. The nation is thought to have about 7.5 MW of off-grid solar.
Asres W/Giorgis, Alternative Energy Technology Development and Promotion Directorate Director, said that the government and the private sector are highly engaged in disseminating the solar technology at the moment. "Raged terrain/highland scattered settlements, hamlet size villages and limited financial capacity/investment on the area makes it difficult to provide modern energy service to its population. It is not feasible to solve all the electric access problems through national grid extension. Therefore, the government has established private-led rural electrification fund in 2005," he added.
In the First Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP-I), the government planned to install 150,000 solar home systems, to electrify 3,000 rural institutions and to distribute 3,000,000 Pico/small lighting systems (Lanterns) for rural households in close partnership with the private sector and NGOs.
The director also said that rural households and social services such as schools and health facilities' energy demand is growing gradually from time to time, The use of solar energy has become appropriate such as lighting, battery charging, health, schools and communication uses. Over the last five years, solar energy technologies are being imported in a growing scale reaching as high as 350,000 units with values of over USD 10 million.
Be it biogas, solar or any form of alternative energy sources, the government has now given ample consideration to tap alternative energy potentials to satisfy public demands. The government is saying that it is committed to use all possible means to utilize the potential.
Minister of Mine, Petroleum and Natural Gas Motuma Mekassa recently said that the government has given high focus to energy development in a bid to benefit people at all levels. "We need to address the energy demands of our people; and the government has put an ambitious plan in GTP-II to increase the energy supply with close to 50 per cent."
The minister also said that the government is committed to work in partnership with the private sector and international companies to improve peoples lives thorough sustainable energy supply; and now 84 international companies are competing to engage in solar energy development projects as a result.
Finally, the fact that improving the lives of people through tapping all the alternative potential and making the energy sector an input to the ongoing industrial and agricultural fast development is mandatory in this highly demanding and fast growing world.

Source : allafrica.com
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