Prospect of alternative energy sources in Ethiopia

Aug 19, 2006 02:00 AM

The three stone stove is the most popular in Ethiopia, and biomass fuel, used for this stove, comprises 94 % of the country's total energy expenditure.
The importance of renewable alternative energy sources and their benefits was considered in depth at a panel discussion and subsequent bazaar jointly organized by the Ethiopian Rural Energy Development and Promotion Centre (EREDPC) and Seshiwali Promotion.

Ato Samson Tolessa, manager of the GTZ-Sun Energy Project, explained that currently close to 1.6 mm people living in developing countries do not have electricity in their homes, and around 2 bn, almost one-third of the world's population, heavily depend on biomass (fire-wood, agricultural residue, and dung) to supply them with energy for cooking.
Samson stated that "In the year 2000, nearly 470 mm tons of wood were consumed in sub Saharan Africa homes in the form of fire wood and charcoal."

While presenting a paper titled "Energy and Environment," Samson underscored that the existingdependence on firewood as a primary source of energy, coupled with the alarming rate of population growth and inefficiencies in use, brought about an ever-widening gap between the demand and the supply of fuel wood. The demand far outstripped the supply.
In 1997, the deficit in fuel-wood consumption was 41.2 mm cm. In 2005, the gap grew to 58.1. As a direct consequence, an aggressive deforestation process has caused the destruction of 200,000 ha of forest and the erosion of 2 bn cm of topsoil annually. Agricultural land is also deteriorating in quality every year.

Samson believes that in order to minimize these environmental pressures, it is absolutely essential that the public have access to improved and modernized energy sources that are cleaner and more efficient. Renewable energy sources are especially advantageous because they are more sustainable than fossil fuels, which will not last more than 70 years. However, renewable energy sources, if used correctly are pollution free and could easily be produced locally.
Another paper from the (EREDPC) explored the possibilities of equipping the rural poor with modern energy technologies so that the labour wasted on inefficient energy sources could be rechannelled. The technology needed by in Ethiopia will not require large expenditures. The real challenge lies in developing the right methods and identifying entry points for such technology. However, with the exception of hydro-power, Ethiopia has not specifically utilized alternative, renewable energy.

The EREDPC, in coordination with other NGOs is spearheading efforts to distribute renewable energy technologies to the public, and promoting their use in rural areas. For instance, they are widely distributing a laketch charcoal stove, which conserves 25 % more fuel than traditional models, and two improved biomass stoves, Mirtinjera and Gonzie clay base. This organization is also introducing methods of charcoal production using agricultural residue like cotton stalks, coffee and timber.
Solar and wind energy are also part of this initiative, and the Centre is assessing potential locations for the future development of these two resources.

The EREDPC strongly beliefs that renewable energy sources could be the answer to Ethiopia's energy shortage.
Firstly, except solar and wind energy, most technologies are not very difficult to get in Ethiopia.
Secondly, most of these energy source require conversion facilities, whose by-products which also have a variety of uses.
Finally, parts can be locally manufactured helping to considerably reduce costs. Nevertheless, according to EREDPC, the successful utilization of these technologies requires a strong and patient outreach initiative.

Tesfayenesh Lema outlined the connection between gender and the availability of clean and affordable energy sources in Ethiopia. In our society, women are responsible for collecting firewood, fetching water and cooking, and thus, energy technology is highly gender-sensitive. Tesfayenesh said that due to an unequal division of labour between men and women, the latter would gain more from the use of alternative energy technologies. Grinding and water-pumping machines that utilize solar or wind energy, for example, could considerably lighten their burden.
Tesfayenesh suggested that pollution from unclean and inefficient energy for household fuel could be the cause of a number of serious health disorder in women, including respiratory infections, eye disease, backaches due to lifting heavy firewood, the risk of sexual violence and many others.

The adoption of such timesaving technologies would allow women to concentrate on education or other income generating activities. However, the purchase cost of most of these new technologies might be prohibitive, and thus assistance from micro-credit facilities could be instrumental to this project.
Because women can provide the right feedback on the strength or weakness of the machines, they should be involved in the design, operation and maintenance of these technologies. To promote this initiative, a bazaar showcasing a variety of alternative energy technology produced both locally and abroad opened at the Addis Ababa Exhibition Centre. The bazaar includes fifteen enterprises involved in the development of renewable energy resources in Ethiopia.

To improve awareness about this technology, the bazaar is hoped to become a continuous event, and to travel to other towns in the future.
A number of new energy saving machines ranging from solar and wind driven and hydro-powered equipment to manufactured fuels (a substitute to firewood) and various improved and fuels saving stoves are also on display.

Source: The Reporter
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