Horn integration through hydro-power supply
Sudan, Djibouti and Kenya have benefited from Ethiopia’s bold move in tapping its hydro-power potential while the latter earned 55 million USD from energy export over the last nine months yet, Ethiopia has been setting the way straight for fast and effective economic interdependence in the Horn region.
Power has essential role in economic transformation of a country or a region; its contribution to sustainable industrialization and urbanization by accessing modern energy goes without saying, as Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, Dr. Eng. Seleshi Bekele.
In 2018 International Hydropower Association Report, the minister furthered that today more than two-thirds of the world’s renewable electricity comes from hydropower dams. “Investment in hydropower generation very often has multiple water resources development benefits.”
It has a benefit to provide regulation and storage structure, enhance capacity to mitigate the adverse impact of climate change resulting in pronounced flood and drought, play crucial roles in stabilizing the energy mix and enable access to relatively cheap electricity in many countries of Africa, he adds.
Hence, the key to attaining green and low-carbon development is clean energy development, where hydropower plays the major role, the minister notes, adding developing hydropower for domestic consumption and exporting the surplus to neighboring countries is tantamount with meeting the ambition of the Paris Climate Agreement— reducing MtCO2 by 2030.
Renewable energy provides one of the most effective strategies to concurrently promote clean development, sustainable access to energy and energy security with its irreplaceable role in climate change mitigation at all levels, International Hydropower Association in 2018 Hydropower Status Report states.
Similarly, the Association’s 2017 report states: “…countries are tending to cooperate more to improve energy access. Greater regional integration through transmission interconnectors and shared power pools is enabling countries to maximize the benefits of abundant, yet unevenly distributed natural resources. Greater transmission can help alleviate temporary shortfalls in production and further monetizes surpluses.”
Cognizant of this fact, Ethiopia has reached its hydro-power generation potential from 300 MW two decades ago to 4,054 MW (2017 Association Report) and shared nearly 160 MW.
Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office (ENTRO) Director General, Fekeahmed Negash, elaborates the case at hand saying: “Ethiopia’s neighboring countries have low hydropower sources; therefore, they need energy from us.”
That is why the three countries are importing hydro-power from Ethiopia and most of them signed agreements to import additional power, he said, noting that countries like South Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda have also entered hydro-power trade deals with Ethiopia.
“If these countries get power from Ethiopia, their economy would inevitably get spurred and this set the stage for economic integration at least at sub-regional level,” he notes.
To him, energy access is ever more seen as an imperative method to wider socio-economic development, promoting access to education, health as well as ensuring sustainable agriculture and the creation of jobs.
“To achieve 1 percent growth 105 percent energy input is needed as literature suggest.”
If this is the reality, on one hand, Ethiopia should continue its leading role in bringing the Horn countries in particular and Nile Basin countries as a whole together to invest in mutual development feats, he argues.
Needless to say that most of the over 45, 000 hydro-power potential, including those in the Nile Basin, he indicates, adding thus the countries cooperation have to be enhanced to unleash this potential and improve their people’s lives.
The Cooperation Framework Agreement (CFA) of the Nile River is tangible evidence though signed and ratified by only Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania while South Sudan, Kenya and Burundi signed the document. “These countries need to expedite the ratification process.”
More importantly, countries of the region need to invest their resource to find reliable financial suppliers for power plant and transmission lines construction for it is the cheapest and clearest energy source, he adds.
Energy Analyst with Water, Irrigation and Energy Minister, Yiheyis Eshetu, also agrees with the argument.
He even says that some studies push Ethiopia’s hydro-power potential to 48, 000MW.
To him, the amount could transform the lives of the millions of people in the region if the countries maximize their cooperation.
The hydropower supply encourages the economic integration in that the countries become more attached to one another to work collaboratively for better economic development; he adds by furthering that it creates opportunity to work on joint hydro-power infrastr- ucture, study the benefits and potential downstream impacts.
Hydropower generation can serve as a promoter and entry point for regional collaboration, regional integration and the development of broader regional markets and indust- rialization.
In this regard, Ethiopia’s electric power development policies and activities have played a pivotal role in achieving economic growth and prosperity in Ethiopia with the ultimate goal of accelerating economic structural transfo- rmation in the country and enhancing economic integration in the region.
With respect to this, both Fekeahmed and Yiheyis stress that Ethiopia’s determination and the ensuing investment in clean energy sources, if met more backing from countries in the region, is likely to catalyze the sub-regional economic integration.
BY DIRRIBA TESHOME