Solar electricity has clear advantages in accessibility, cost and reliability compared to traditional means of rural electrification. In the mid to long term, solar electricity will also be competitive on the grid. As of 2018, Ethiopia had launched the National Electrification Program which aimed for 65 percent of the population to be grid-connected by2025.
The national Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) Strategy, launched in 2011, highlights solar PV technology as a key technology for rural electrification.
In the same direction points the National Electrification Program (NEP) of 2017, this intends to avail 5.7 million households with off-grid electricity, mostly through solar Photovoltaic (PV). A distinct emphasis of the NEP is the key role of the Ethiopian private sector as well as the potential of public-private partnerships in achieving these ambitious goals.
The ambition of both the CRGE and the NEP was manifested in the first competitive tender for a large-scale solar power plant of 100 MWp. This was won by a private investor. Assistance for similar tender initiatives is provided by the Scaling Solar program of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which advises the Ethiopian government in targeting investments for 500 MWp solar PV generation capacities through strong private-sector involvement.
Ethiopian Electric Power Communication Director, Moges Mekonnen told The Ethiopian Herald that Ethiopia is working exhaustively to solve the electric power scarcity across the nation. As to him, the country is also working to produce power through using solar energy.
He also explained that the country is signing different agreements with foreign investors to develop the sector adding that Ethiopia will produce about 500 MW from grid solar power with in the coming couple of years.
Recently, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Abu Dhabi future energy Company PJSC-Masdar inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly develop 500MW PV projects in Ethiopia.
The signing of the MOU was initiated during the State Visit of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Ph.D) to the United Arab Emirates. During the signing ceremony, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed remarked that since 2018, Ethiopia has been undertaking a wave of reforms, particularly to strengthen the economy by harnessing private sector investments.
The premier further reiterated that Ethiopia is a nation with untapped potential in various sectors that can be catalyzed to transform the lives of people. The energy sector has been identified as one critical lever.
According to Mekonen, the project will take place in Afar and Somalia states. Ethiopia has many renewable resources covering wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass, and the country aspires to be a power hub and the battery for the Horn of Africa.
Aside from the grid projects different local and foreign investors are developing off grid solar PV projects, he noted. Afroamk Solar-tech, a private limited company is among those companies that are producing more than 50 MW per a day. Assefa Mengesha is a founder and the General Manager of Afroamk Solar-tech PLC.
His passion for the technology he witnessed while living abroad was the starting point for his investment today. Although he was a professional accountant, he had a deep love for technology and he was so attracted by what he has observed while he was in Israel. It is a solar water heater that anyone in the country can build and install at home which was considered as a custom in Israel.
When he tried to bring this technology into the country, there was no trained manpower in the sector, so obstacles began from the beginning. However, Assefa struggled with his ambitions and won the struggle successfully. After he trained well for two years in Israel, he laid the foundations of a factory here in Ethiopia.
As to him, Afroamk Solar-tech, a solar water heater company at Sendafa, Ethiopia, was registered ETB 16 million while it began its investment. The total area of the compound now is 3,000 square meters and the factory covers an area of about 1,000 square meters, including service offices. It has also created jobs for more than 30 people. As to him all the employees have taken skillful training before they start their job.
So, the solar water heater was made by an Ethiopian, for Ethiopians and started to hang in different shops for sale. The fact is that the solar panel installed in the machine has a high heat collection capacity and the water in it passes through a high temperature.
Moreover, the machine can be used when hot water is needed in showers, private homes, health centers, hotels and industries, as well as for pensions and apartments. In addition, the solar boiler, which is part of the device, is being installed as a thermostat and control unit for cancer radiation machines in hospitals.
As a result, the device is being installed in major hospitals in various regions, including the Black Lion and St. Paul’s Hospital. With the start of production in Ethiopia, Ethiopia was able to replace the imported product with the same locally produced product.
This solar water heater is available in as many sizes as needed and can be prepared in large quantities for apartments and hotels, starting with 80 liters. The devices are European products that are made with special care to ensure that they do not clog, break, and deteriorate prematurely.
The products are designed to be used for more than a decade. It also provides at least five years’ warranty for buyers of the products. According to Assefa, founder and General Manager of the enterprise, the products can survive the power brake and high electric consumption adding that the company has a capacity to produce up to 60 products per a day.
Explaining the importance of the product, Assefa said: if the solar system is equipped with 10 thousand households, it will help to save 50 thousand kilowatts per a day and more than 1,500 megawatts per a month as each household needs at least five kilowatts of electricity per day. Electricity can be reduced by using solar water heaters.
“I have invested in this sector not only for profit but also for reducing energy consumption of the country. This work should be seen as a national project. It also reduces the number of transformers that explode due to increased power. Due to the shortage of energy, electricity needs a lot of support. Therefore, such projects can greatly reduce the pressure on electricity,” he noted.
Assefa also added that more than 300 solar water heater products have been installed in different areas of the country. According to the recent survey, these machines were able to save more than eight megawatts of electricity per day. As to him, they will increase their accessibility if the government offered the necessary loan for them. However, the factory is now in good condition as Dashen Bank has been able to visit and agree with the factory to provide them a loan in view of its contribution to the country.
Asked about the competitiveness of their products in the market, Assefa said: his company will start exporting its product to East Africa in the near future as countries open their doors for import. He also explained that they can produce at the required level.
Regarding the investment climate in the country, Assefa said: “Countries are attracting investors in a lot of competition. It is impossible to attract investment if there is no favorable environment for investors to come and dream. Other countries offer land for free; they also lend without interest. Investors need to be monitored for where they are and what they are doing after obtaining a permit. The non-cooperation of the banks is a major headache for the investment”.
Therefore, if such challenges can be solved by the government, it is possible to produce international market competent product in our country, he noted. Owing to the fact that solar energy can fill the gap in electricity supply capacity of the country, he mentioned that the country is ready for supporting investors who are willing to develop PV projects in Ethiopia.