Ethiopia: Power sector faces uncertainty

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The Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo) has again announced a power rationing program and ordered industries to cut their production.

Miheret Debebe, CEO of EEPCo, explained that latest power rationing, unlike the previous, is not as a result of power shortage but due to the restricted load capacity of transmission lines and delayed expansion work of new transmission lines.

According to him the power demand has had a steady growth of 24 percent a year, and although the corporation has the capacity to supply ample electric power for the country, “the current transmission line’s electric load capacity” has contributed to the problem of “power interruption, mainly during peak hours”.

Mr. Debebe said that the rehabilitation of the new transmission line is being undertaken. The new electricity transmission system improvement project is being supported by the World Bank.

The CEO also argues that power supply has been affected in part due to technical problems. EEPCo is currently producing only about 1300 megawatt of power from dams operating in the country and is short of the 700 MW needed to reach its total capacity of 2000MW.

The recently inaugurated Gilgel Gibe II Hydro Power Plant with a capacity of 420 megawatt has been nonoperational following its collapse shortly after its inauguration. One of the effective power stations, Gilgel Gibe I is only producing half of its total 180 megawatt capacity, due to a transformer collapse. Tekeze Hydro Power Plant, another new power station with a 300 megawatt capacity and is generating only about 70 megawatt.

Meanwhile, Tana Belese, the biggest hydro power station in Ethiopia, with a 460 megawatt capacity, has been fully operational. But as its 400 kilovolt transmission installation work from Bahir Dar to the central part of the country has not been finalized, power supply from Tana is transmitted on limited kilovolt transmission lines and has a high wastage, sources at the EEPCo have revealed.

Last week, October 21, 2010 EEPCo sent an official letter to factories to halt their production between 6 and 10 pm to avoid power outages during peak hours. Nonetheless, most residents continue to experience power cuts without any prior notice on daily basis.

And although Ethiopians are hoping that the finalization of the Tana Belese transmission line work and renovation of Gilgel Gibe II brings them the needed solution, it is unknown when the problem will be duly tackled.

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