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Award-Winning Hydropower Project Helps Electrify Ethiopia


The government of Ethiopia has set a goal of providing access to electricity to all its citizens by 2025. It still has a long way to go, but projects such as the Genale Dawa III hydropower station are helping it get closer to the target. That’s one of the reasons Genale Dawa III is a POWER Top Plant.

The population in Africa is among the fastest growing and youngest in the world. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has reported that 1-in-2 people added to the world population between today and 2040 will be in Africa. The continent is expected to overtake China and India, and become the world’s most populous region by 2023. By some estimates, more than half a billion people are expected to be added to Africa’s urban population by 2040.
Let’s take a moment to digest that. New York City, which includes the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, is the most populous city in the U.S. Its population was estimated to be 8,336,817 in 2019. That basically means, on average, three cities the size of New York City will be added to Africa every year from now through 2040. Of course, those people will ultimately be added in a less-conspicuous manner in many cities throughout the continent rather than in new cities the size of NYC, but the magnitude of the population growth is mind-boggling.

Why that’s important to the power industry is because growing urban populations mean growing energy demand. According to IEA data, more than 510 million people in sub-Saharan Africa still do not have access to electricity today. Despite progress in some countries, current and planned efforts to provide access to modern energy services have barely outpaced population growth.
Ethiopia is a case in point. More than 50 million people in Ethiopia, population 110 million, lack access to electricity. Still, it was cited by the IEA as one country that has made progress. While actively pursuing rural electrification for years, Ethiopia officially launched its National Electrification Program in November 2017, which aims to achieve 100% electrification by 2025. Significant generating capacity additions will be needed to help reach that goal. The IEA reported about 1 GW of geothermal and 2 GW of wind energy are expected to be added by 2030, but the key component of the electrification effort revolves around hydropower. About 22 GW of hydro is expected to be added in the next 10 years.

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