Solar energy vision for Ethiopia
Published: June 1, 2012
Ethiopia has a large population with a rapidly growing economy and very low level of electrification. Photovoltaic systems are cost-effective and reliable means to increase access not only to electricity but also to information and communication through mobile devices. PV is already an important source of power for the mobile network in Ethiopia – it will also be important for of energizing social institutions such as schools, clinics and water supply.
The large domestic market, increasing disposable incomes, and growing technical workforce should enable Ethiopia to develop a sustainable PV manufacturing and distribution industry. Its sizable domestic market should also enable it to position itself as the regional solar energy hub. It is estimated that a local manufacturing and service industry for PV systems can create 50,000 full time skilled jobs by 2020. This, however, requires conceptual transformation for the sector – the existing sector set up is inadequate to achieve this vision. Policy and regulatory issues must be resolved and sector development support must be adequately provided. Since new industries are constantly faced with new challenges the key is to have a strong institution to address them effectively as they appear.
Such an institution could be the rural electrification support unit within the Ministry of Water and Energy. This unit must be truly capable and empowered; flexible in its operations; and be able to work with industry actors. It should first work to improve the policy and regulatory environment, and then attract resources to provide adequate sector development support.