Despite the impressive grid expansion in Ethiopia to date, the percentage of electrified households remains low at only about 33%. The Government’s recently launched National Electrification Program envisions that by 2025, 65% of the population will be connected to the grid as they place a strong emphasis on scaling up connections in areas within short-term reach of the grid.
The other 35% – or around 7.7 million households – will need an interim off-grid solution while waiting for grid expansion, or even a permanent one where appropriate, such as in very remote areas where grid access will remain too costly and logistically challenging even in the long term.
General Electric (GE) of the United States, the world’s premier digital industrial company, has commissioned a scalable micro grid system powered by a Hybrid Distributed Power unit for Digo Village in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. The system which was implemented in partnership with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, the Oromia Region Energy bureau as well as Ethiopian Electric Utility (EEU) will provide reliable, cost effective power to 1,500 inhabitants of Digo providing critical power to a health clinic, school, administrative offices and homes.
The commissioning is consistent with Ethiopia’s National Electrification Program – Implementation Road Map (NEP-IRM) which seeks for a coordinated off-grid implementation program plan, designed for accelerated scale-up of mini grid solutions in rural and deep rural areas. According to Dr. Eng. Sileshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, “Electricity access is an essential pillar of economic and social development. Localized solutions such as the Hybrid Distributed Power unit provided by GE will be part of the solution to electrify Ethiopia going forward”.
Solar home systems can help to bridge the electrification gap in developing countries—if certain conditions are met.
About a billion people have no access to electricity. While progress in lessening that figure has been steady, it is still likely to be at least 870 million in 2020.1Expanding the grid is part of the answer to the question of how to bring power to these people, but it is not the only one. Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,2which make up 90 percent of the world’s unelectrified population, are also exploring off-grid solutions, including solar home systems (SHSs). So are countries in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, which account for most of the remaining unelectrified population. The global market for SHSs has grown 23 percent a year since 2012,3representing more than four million units installed.
Solar lightbulbs, mini power grids, and batteries could soon supply energy to disadvantaged, rural regions that old-fashioned transmission lines and centralized coal-fired generators will never reach. But while prices of renewables have tumbled, and some say the technology offers lower-income countries the chance to leapfrog over more cumbersome ways of delivering energy, significant challenges remain — particularly around how to finance energy access for the poor.
Most of the world’s energy-poor populations live far from electricity networks. That includes about 57 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa, or 588 million, who remain without access to electricity according to the International Energy Agency; and just over 1 billion worldwide, the United Nations estimates. The U.N.’s seventh Sustainable Development Goal aims to close that gap by 2030, ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services.