Agrofuel development in Ethiopia: rhetoric, reality and recommendations

Aug 2008

Currently, Ethiopia’s economic and social development efforts are geared towards raising the country to a middle-income level within the coming 20 years. To this effect every sector pursues its own targets since the vision is of national interest. Energy development, if designed in line with the needs of agriculture, industry, transport and other related sectors, would highly accelerate the achievement of this goal. The country, with a total land area of 1.12 million square kilometers, contains distinct agro-climatic zones: semi-arid highlands; semitropical valleys; and hot semi-arid lowlands. Population and
agricultural potentials vary accordingly. Overall, 66% of the total land area is potentially suited to agriculture, only 14% of which is currently under cultivation while more than 50% is used as pasture land. The availability of transport facilities determines the ability of poorer communities to access major social service centers, such as schools and health facilities, and to be actively involved in the markets. Rural women transport goods such as water, firewood, and agricultural produce on their backs, often traveling long distances. This severely affects their health and deprives them of time for other social involvements. This burden is being addressed by the policy of expanding the road network to allow motorized access to rural settlements. However, this effort needs to be complemented by a sustainable supply of energy to fuel these vehicles. Moreover, processing perishable agricultural products so that they fetch higher prices in the market becomes easier when modern forms of energy are available in the vicinity of the farms.
The government is strongly committed to extending the availability of modern energy to those who do not yet have access to it, in order to facilitate an accelerated national socio-economic development. Provision of electricity to rural areas through the Universal Electrification Access Programme (UEAP) is implemented directly by the Ministry of Mines and Energy through the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo), and makes grid electricity accessible to villages. Using the grid system is proceeding vigorously. The rate of electrification in 2004 was 13% and now has increased to 22%. This is a very commendable achievement, but still does not take Ethiopia out of the lower bracket of energy consumption, even in Africa. The country’s short-term target is to increase the electricity coverage to 50% by the end of 2010. To expand access to locations at present beyond the reach of the grid, the government is implementing the Off-Grid Rural Electrification Program (OFF-GRE) with the active involvement of the private sector and rural cooperatives by the provision of loans. In this program, power is generated either from small hydroelectric plants or from solar and wind energy sources and then connected directly to households. But all these efforts do not address the immense demand for cooking energy of the rural poor, because they cannot afford to pay electricity bills or purchase the relatively expensive electric cooking stoves. To remedy this situation, alternative technologies such as solar cookers, Lakech improved charcoal stoves (with 25% fuel saving), Mirt improved Enjera-baking stoves (with 50% fuel saving), and Gonzie improved multi-purpose (cooking and baking) stoves (with 54% fuel saving) are being promoted (EREDPC, 2002). To effectively address the energy problem of the country, the baseline scenario must be changed and for this purpose different alternatives must be looked into. Currently, the world is advancing in the Forum for Environment, 2008 development and utilization of new energy technologies and fuels that will not compromise the needs of future generations nor destroy the environment. Our country, being endowed with various renewable energy resources, must benefit from the recent technological developments which attempt to harness these resources, giving due care to the interests of all relevant stakeholders. This paper will highlight the pros and cons of the existing energy supply and demand, and related technologies, to all those involved in the process of providing improved and modern energy technologies in Ethiopia. The second section describes the relationship between energy, poverty and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Ethiopia; section three briefly describes the key issues in the electricity and transportation sub-sectors; the fourth section addresses resource potentials and the utilization levels of different energy resources. The section further briefly discusses the opportunities, constraints and challenges of the sector. The way forward to deal with energy issues in Ethiopia is addressed in section five, and the paper concludes with a few conclusive remarks.

By: Forum for Environment

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