Ethiopian Electric Utility, the state-owned power utility company, is undertaking a major rehabilitation work on electric power distribution lines in Addis Ababa and seven regional towns at a cost of 224 million dollars aimed at reducing the recurrent power supply interruption.
Gosaye Mengistie, CEO of Ethiopian Electric Utility, told The Reporter that the main reason for the recurrent power supply interruption is the problem with the old electric power distribution lines in Addis Ababa as well as in the regional towns. “We do not have problems with power generation. The major problem we have now is with the power distribution system. The electric lines in Addis Ababa were constructed more than 30 years ago during the time when the public was using electric power only to light homes. Ethiopian life style has changed much in recent years. Low cost housing projects have changed the way of life. People now use electric stoves and many other electric appliances. Investment particularly in the manufacturing sector has grown rapidly. All these factors contributed to escalating power demand. But we are using the rickety electric lines to distribute the increasing electric supply. That is why the electric distribution lines catch fire and the transformers explode,” Gossaye told The Reporter.
Due to the government’s universal access program rural Ethiopia is being electrified. The existing customers’ demand has also increased with the introduction of affordable electric appliances. Increasing foreign direct investment and local investments in the manufacturing and service sectors have significantly contributed to the thriving electric power demand.
Ethiopian Electric Utility commenced work on the electric power distribution lines upgrading work aimed at avoiding the power supply interruption and improving its power supply service to international standards. In Addis Ababa the project includes the replacement of the rickety distribution lines with new insulated lines, to improve the capacity of the transformers and upgrade the substations.
The electric lines that would be replaced in Addis Ababa are 400 km long. The new lines are laid in the ground and also constructed overland on new concrete poles. The project is being undertaken in coordination with Ethio-Telecom, Addis Ababa Roads Authority and Addis Ababa Water and Sewerage Authority.
According to Gossaye, the government has secured 162 million dollars loan from EXIM Bank of China and 62 million dollars from the World Bank Group to finance the electric network rehabilitation project. The Chinese power firm, Power China, in partnership with another Chinese company ,Zefu, is undertaking the Addis Ababa network rehabilitation work while China State Grid is working on the regional towns network development project.
Gossaye said work on the projects is expedited and would be completed in May 2016. “When completed power interruption would no more be a problem to the public and the manufacturing sector. We cannot totally avoid power interruptions but it would be to an acceptable level. At least it would not be a day to day problem to the public,” he said.
Ethiopia’s installed power generation capacity has reached 4000 MW. The demand at peak season stood at 2000 MW. When Gibe III hydro power plant starts generation at full capacity 1870 MW there will be surplus power that can be exported to neighboring countries. The country’s generation capacity was only 400 MW when the EPRDF led government came to power in 1991.
Experts say the government in the past worked hard to increase the generation capacity of the nation and gave little or no attention to power distribution lines which is now the main cause for the erratic power supply.