(The Ethiopian Herald, 14 Feb 2018)
Ethiopia has set a target to achieve universal access to electricity by 2025. Achieving universal access to electricity for a developing country is not only about providing electricity services to under-served population, but also about appropriately matching the peoples' and the country's general development needs. Ethiopia has launched its own version of universal access to electricity program – the National Electrification Program (NEP).
Signifying the importance the project to the country, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn during the launching of the program said that “access to adequate, reliable and affordable electricity service is a critical enabler to Ethiopia's transformation move into a middle income country status and the well-being of its citizens.” He also indicated how difficult it is for the nation to achieve its national transformation programs or the target to become a middle income country by 2025 without universal access to electricity,.
NEP aims at expanding electric services to rural cities, kebeles and towns and in the process increase the country's electricity coverage. As it is known, Ethiopia's electricity service coverage at national level at the end of the GTP I implementation has reached 54.25 per cent with 4727 cities getting electric service. The program has also a plan to raise the electric access of the country to 90 percent at the end of the GTP-II by electrifying 10,205 towns and villages whilst helping and decisively solving good governance issues that occur in the electric service delivery. Also, 4.5 million new grid connections are anticipated through the first phase (2018-2022) of the program.
Recently, Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity has held a consultative forum, where Challa Aman, Planning and Engineering Head with the ministry presented a six month performance report and depicted the current state of the project.
According to Challa, wide-ranging transmission line constructions, including new transmission lines, and expansion works are being undertaken as per the plan of the program and GTP II goals. And one of which is to provide electric service to 10,205 rural kebeles and towns and elevate the national electric coverage from 54.25 per cent to 90 per cent.
One of the main tasks under the program is upgrading the electric system in some towns, and installing new electric service in new towns that didn't have electric power. In this regard, he stated that most of the country's regions have performed above the targets set. In general, in the past six months, 35 out of 42 planned upgrading projects have been carried out, while 254 new towns out of the planned 330 have been electrified over the past six months alone.
Furthermore, as part of the effort aimed at providing sustainable access to modern electricity services, there was a plan to connect 150 thousand customers through the first round of the National Grid Densification Program.
Challa revealed that efforts are being done in this regard with the inputs needed like medium and lower line and identification of transformers. Also, he revealed that a pilot project is being carried out 40 kilometers away from Addis Ababa in regard to providing electric service to customers from solar energy source.
In terms of providing reliable electric power to customers and expanding the use of modern technology, the building of a SCADA (a system that enables to better control and monitor additional distribution network) is going ahead on top of network strengthening works that are carried out in seven major cities. The civil construction work is almost done, the report indicated.
In terms of challenges faced, the Director said that there was issues in terms of input supply (transformer and insulator), that were solved by procuring the inputs from foreign markets. There was also an effort to bolster the capabilities of the concrete pillar manufacturers, they are made to prepare action plan and are being strictly monitored. Issues related to incompetence in some associations and contractors were also well supervised, he said.
In addition to the aforementioned problems/challenges, issues related to infrastructure development like roads have put a strain on the implementation of the project. The report also mentioned other challenges that are caused as a result of external factors, ranging from budget to logistics while various works are already at hand to solve them, according to Challa.
Moving forward, the plan is to fully complete the plan at the end of the fiscal year, and complete works like installations, finishing feasibility study for 745 cities that will operate with off grid.
All in all, the program not only tends to deliver universal access to electricity, but also enable the country to reach its target ahead of the goal of UN. And it is aimed at ensuring access to adequate, reliable and affordable electricity for all in 2030'. Considering the program's importance, the effort to implement it should be further augmented with all the relevant stakeholders amplifying the strength demonstrated so far, and rectifying the challenges ahead.