Ethiopia Plans to Start Exporting Power to Djibouti This Month

EEPC Transmission Line in Ethiopia
EEPC Transmission Line in Ethiopia

By William Davison, Bloomberg

Ethiopia expects to begin exporting electricity to Djibouti this month after completing a project connecting its power grid to the neighboring country, an Ethiopian Electric Power Corp. official said.

The link, completed in November, is in the final testing and commissioning stage, Alemayehu Wubeshet, head of transmission lines and sub-station construction at the state- owned utility, said in an interview in Addis Ababa on May 4. The project forms part of a program to link nine regional countries to a single electricity grid by 2016.

“We are planning by the end of May we will send power” to Djibouti, Alemayehu said. The line will enable Ethiopia to supply as much as 30 megawatts of electricity, he said.

Ethiopia plans to produce as much as 8,000 megawatts of additional electricity, mainly from hydropower sources, over the next five years, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on April 30. Construction of a $4.76 billion, 5,250-megawatt project near the Sudanese border was announced on April 2 by Meles. The Horn of Africa country’s hydropower potential of 45,000 megawatts is second only to the Democratic Republic of Congo on the continent, according to the World Bank.

Ethiopian hydropower will generate the bulk of electricity that will be traded among nine countries that are expected to connect to a regional grid by 2016, said Jasper Oduor, executive secretary of the Eastern Africa Power Pool, or EAPP.

“The good thing is the whole area can get cheap power and Ethiopia can get revenue,” he said in an e-mailed response to questions on May 4. “It’s a shared benefit situation.”

Integration

The EAPP, based in Addis Ababa, will coordinate the development of the regional power market, including determining how to set tariffs, overseeing integration and regulating the market that will begin trading in 2013, Oduor said.

Ethiopia has occasional outages even after three hydropower plants came online in the past two years.

“At this time we don’t have any power shortages,” Alemayehu said. “It’s not a systemic or planning problem. Sometimes it’s technical, sometime it’s damage.”

The African Development Bank funded the link between Ethiopia and Djibouti and will also advance funds for a double circuit 230-kilovolt line that will triple the transmission capacity to eastern Ethiopia and Djibouti, according to Alemayehu.

A connection to Sudan may be completed this year, said Raihan Elahi, the World Bank’s senior energy specialist in Ethiopia. The Washington-based lender provided about $45 million for the project that began in 2007, he said in a phone interview from the capital on May 4. There is an agreement Ethiopia has to deliver 100 megawatts to the neighboring country and the amount may rise to 200 megawatts, Elahi said.

“The major objective it to monetize Ethiopia’s hydropower potential,” Elahi said. “It considers itself the water tower of Africa and it can’t use it all by itself. It will be opening up a new window by earning foreign exchange from hydropower.”

To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa via Nairobi at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson in Nairobi at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.