For the past decade, Ethiopia’s economy has been one of the fastest-growing in the world, averaging an 11 per cent increase in GDP each year. Record GDP growth, coupled with a population growth rate of 2.3 per cent, has led to a staggering 14 per cent increase in energy demand. The country is making significant efforts to satisfy demand, maintain growth and supply a population where currently only 25 per cent have power connectivity.
Ethiopia is fast becoming a centre of industry and new infrastructure, with the aspiration to achieve middle- income status by 2025. Since 2011, Ethiopia has implemented the Climate- Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy, which substitutes conventional development by means of harnessing clean energy sources like hydropower, wind, geothermal, solar and biomass, and implementing energy-efficient technologies in the transport and industrial sectors.
With its 2010 Growth and Transformation Plan I (GTP-I), Ethiopia aimed to quadruple installed capacity by prioritising large hydro developments and achieving total power installed capacity of 10,000 MW by 2015. The government published the GTP-II for 2016–20, with the objective of reaching total installed capacity over 17,208 MW. Hydropower is set to make up about 90 per cent of the power supply.
Ethiopia has some of the richest water resources in Africa, distributed across eight major basins with an exploitable hydropower potential of 45,000 MW. Over half of this potential is located in the Abbay and Omo river basins, where the nearly-completed 6,000 MW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the recently-completed 1,870 MW Gibe III project, are located.
Gibe III, the tallest roller-compacted concrete (RCC) dam in the world, with 246 m dam height and 630 m crest length, was inaugurated in December 2016. The USD 1.8 billion construction was financed 40 per cent by the Ethiopian Government, and 60 per cent by the China Exim Bank. While all turbines have been installed and commissioned, not all are yet online, as reservoir filling is still in progress.
GERD’s construction is progressing according to the timeframe, with more than half already complete. Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia agreed a new declaration for cooperation in March 2016 that alters the 1929 treaty, where Egypt had a veto over any upstream projects in the Nile River. In addition to GERD’s construction, the 254 MW Genale Dawa hydropower plant is near completion.
Salini Impregilo, the constructor of Gibe III and GERD, signed a USD 2.8 billion contract with EEP in March 2016 to build the 2,160 MW Koysha hydro project. The project is financed between EEP and the Italian Export Credit Agency.
Downstream from Gibe III, this is the fourth plant in the Omo River cascade scheme, which envisions a fifth dam further downstream. Other hydropower projects in the bidding phase are Tams (1,700 MW), Chemoga Yeda (280 MW), and the Geba complex (385 MW).
PowerChina Huadong Engineering Corporation completed the rehabilitation – at a cost of USD 14 million – of Ethiopia’s oldest hydropower plant, the 6.6 MW Aba Samuel, which dates back to 1941.
The GTP-II also envisions exploiting alternative sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and biogas resources. The exploitable capacity from other sources is estimated at 1.3 million MW (wind) and 7,000 MW (geothermal). The 1,000 MW Corbetti geothermal power project, with a cost of USD 4 billion, is expected to be commissioned in 2018. Currently, the 300 MW Aysha, 100 MW Debreberhan and 150 MW Itaya wind farms are under development, with others like the 100 MW Assela under study.
Ethiopia is also rapidly expanding its transmission and distribution network in order to light up the country. Existing cross-border interconnections include 100 MW to Sudan and 50 MW to Djibouti, while the 1,000 km Eastern Electricity Highway Project (500 kV) will be capable of exporting 2,000 MW to Kenya upon completion in 2018. The country has ambitions of becoming the ‘energy hub’ within the Eastern Africa Power Pool.
This country profile is featured in the 2016 Hydropower Status Report. You can download the full report here.
This profile was last updated in May 2016.