An Ethiopian official said this week that the country was utilizing less than 1 percent of its total thermal power potential, despite an abundance of thermal energy along the Great Rift Valley.
“Ethiopia’s total geothermal-energy potential stands at 7,000 megawatts,” Mekuria Lemma, strategy and investment director at the state-run Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO), told Anadolu Agency. “The areas along the Great Rift Valley have been identified as potential geothermal power areas.”
According to Mekuria, only 7 megawatts of energy are currently being generated from the region’s Aluto Langano thermal site, which, he noted, represented less than 1 percent of the county’s total geothermalenergy potential.
“Multinational energy companies are now showing an interest in geothermal power development,” he said.
Mekuria went on to note that Reykjavik Geothermal, a U.S.-Icelandic private developer, had signed a $4-billion agreement last year to build a 1,000-megawatt geothermal power plant in Ethiopia.
“An Israeli company has also shown an interest in investing in geothermal power at four separate sites along the rift valley,” he said.
- Risky business
Despite the country’s large potential, however, the risky nature of the business was impeding development of the geothermal-power industry.
Development of the sector requires drilling as deep as two miles with a high probability of loss, which, Mekuria noted, a “poor country like Ethiopia” can hardly afford.
Therefore, he added, thermal power development was generally reserved for private investors, who, he said, were better prepared to take risks.
“We won’t invest much money on risky geothermal power generation, as we have alternative hydropower potential at our disposal,” Mekuria said.
Nevertheless, he added, EEPCO was currently building a 70-megawatt geothermal power plant in the country’s Shashemene area some 170 kilometers south of Addis Ababa.
He also noted that EEPCO was planning to build a 1,200-megawatt thermal energy project under the country’s second five-year Growth and Transformation Plan, which is scheduled to begin later this year.
By Abebech Tamene Hailekal