By Barry Malone
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia will start exporting power to neighbouring Sudan and Djibouti in 2010 and plans to produce 15,000 MW of power within 10 years, its mines and energy minister said on Tuesday.
Power shortages are common in Africa and have put off investors and shut down industries, even though the world’s most underpowered continent has abundant potential resources of solar, hydro, oil, gas, coal and geothermal power.
Minister Alemayehu Tegenu told Reuters the government had identified the potential for specific hydro, wind, geothermal and solar projects over the next 10 years.
“Once all of those resources are exploited we can become a major power exporter, generating 15,000 MW,” Alemayehu said. “Foreign companies are welcome to explore investment potential.”
Ethiopia now generates about 1,500 MW and that will rise to almost 2,000 MW when a new hydropower dam opens in 2010, Alemayehu said, adding the country will export to her neighbours once the project is complete.
“We are working on interconnection infrastructure between Ethiopia and Sudan and Ethiopia and Djibouti so we can beat our shortages and export,” he said in an interview. “We will finish the work by 2010 and will have sufficient power to export.”
Outages have been common in Ethiopia for five years. The country rationed power for over five months this year, closing factories, hampering exports and fuelling a shortage of hard currency.
Ethiopia is mainly powered by seven hydropower dams, two of which opened this year. Alemayehu said the two new dams and the one due to open in February 2010 should end the power shortages.
The minister said Ethiopia would use the interconnection infrastructure to export and also to pool power between the countries during shortages.
The African Union has urged its member states to start pooling energy to help the continent withstand economic shocks when countries run short of power.
Ethiopia in September agreed preliminary deals with Chinese firms, China Gezhouba Group Company and Sinohydro Corporation, to build two more hydropower projects.
The government also signed an agreement with the Hydrochina company for the construction of two wind farms to be reserved for emergency power shortages.
Power demand in Africa will rise by 150,000 MW between 2007 and 2030, according to the International Energy Agency.