By Groum Abate
in Capital, Monday, 10 October 2011, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
After a long wait, the supply of electricity power has become one of Ethiopia’s largest foreign currency earners, fulfilling the aim to make it one of the major foreign currency earners in a short period of time.
On Wednesday, October 5, the 283km long Ethio-Djibouti electric power transmission project was officially inaugurated in Djibouti. The 230-kV power transmission line will enable Djibouti to import up to 60-megawatts of electricity from Ethiopia. Ethiopia in return would obtain up to 1.5 million dollars a month from the export of power.
“It is now almost four months since we began supplying power to Djibouti. The trial test was started on May 28. We earned about 6 million dollars till now. It will earn the country 18 million dollars annually.” Miheret Debebe CEO of Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo) told Capital.
“We will provide electric power to Djibouti, up to 60 MW, when power consumption in Ethiopia is low. That means we sell Djibouti power at a time when we don’t really make use of it, from 10 pm in the evening until 7 am in the morning.” Miheret added.
Djibouti has only satisfied its power needs from fuel operated generators until now; it spends millions of dollars annually to satisfy its power demand.
The CEO added that generating power from fuel operated generators costs about 0.25 dollar per kilowatt an hour “however the electric power we provide to Djibouti is about 0.07 dollar per kilowatt an hour. This means we are selling them power at a cost less than two thirds of what they used to pay for fuel power” he said.
The Ethio-Djibouti power interconnection project was inaugurated in the presence of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and President of the Republic of Djibouti, Ismael Omar Guelleh.
In his speech at the inaugural ceremony, Prime Minister Meles said in addition to the existing railway interconnection, Ethiopia and Djibouti are building strong roads and telecom infrastructure.
Meles also said that the project embarks upon establishing another milestone towards regional integration.
Miheret Debebe shares the idea of integration. “In the world of today, in relation to energy, no country is secure on its own about its energy supply and consumption. For instance, if we take Canada and the US, the US is dependent on power supplied from Canada. France and the UK too, despite their historical background, England depends on France to a certain extent. The larger part of Europe has already been linked in this regard. The Mediterranean and North Africa are already integrated. What makes this project unique is that in the present era of Africa, this is the only project to become fruitful. This is a single project that has managed to bear fruit. This is a project that we can take as a model.” the CEO told Capital.
“The Ethio-Sudan power pool project is also expected to be finalized in the near future. Finance has been secured for the Ethio-Kenya power integration project. This means it will significantly improve the missing link of east Africa.” Miheret said hoping the two projects would be finalized according to plan.
Yasin Alibab, Councilor General of Djibouti Berlin Consulting Firm who attended the inaugural ceremony hopes that investors will flock to Djibouti following the power supply and the decrease in price. “All of us in Africa are brothers and sisters, especially those people in Ethiopia and Djibouti. First, we can work together in the bid to build our respective country. Second, the majority of people in both countries will have new jobs that will be created following the electric supply. Many companies are expected to flourish following the reduced rate of electric bill.” “I hope both sides of the two nations will benefit from the endeavor. Today is a historical day, a special one. Many African countries can learn more from this agreement.” Yasin added cheerfully expecting that the power supplied from Ethiopia would be increased.
Abdo Mohamed, Head of Geothermal Project of Djibouti, said that the project would benefit both countries. “This project is beneficial to both countries. We Djiboutians import everything from outside. We used to generate electricity from imported fuel. What makes this project very essential is its ability to disassociate Djibouti from using oil in an environmentally friendly manner. The cost of producing electricity from oil is also very high. The imported electricity will definitely reduce the cost both in terms of finance and environment.” Abdo told Capital.
“We don’t have any sort of power generated from hydropower like Ethiopia. We make use of petroleum to produce electricity. We have one important geothermal project. This project is still at exploration stage. We are undertaking a feasibility study and we expect to generate 50 megawatts” Abdo added.
“Even though I don’t have the exact figure on how much Djibouti spends on fuel for generators, it is a substantial amount. It is not only the fuel importation that costs the country but also we have oil expenses, spare parts, and the cost of the generator itself.” Abdo said.