Ethiopia Loses More than 21% of the Electricity
It Produce Due to Poor Distribution
Before assuming his current position of Chief Executive Officer at the Ethiopian Electric Utility (EEU) in August 2015, Gosaye Mengistie had many years of experience in the present Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity. He started his career as an expert for energy in the Ministry, where he also served for more than 15 years as director for several offices.
Gosaye has been a focal person for Africa in the World Energy Council Forums. In fact, he’s been serving as a secretary of the Council representing Ethiopia for the last ten years. He also served as member of the board for the former Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo) for eleven years before assuming his current position. EEPCo split into EEU and Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) in December 2013. He says this is a company he knows the ins-and-outs. He used to closely regulate, monitor and supervise its operations while working in the Ministry. Gosaye earned a BA Degree in Economics from Addis Ababa University and MSc in Energy Economics from the University of Dundee in Scotland.
EBR’s Tamirat Astatkie spoke with him about energy efficiency in Ethiopia and the institutional transformation he leads at EEU. The following is an excerpt.
Following the split of EEPCo into EEU and EEP in 2013, what has changed in the service delivery?
The split of EEPCo was undertaken as per the recommendations of the foreign consultant that was hired to undertake study [how we can improve our servises] by benchmarking other countries. The split was necessary to enhance accessibility, efficiency and reliability of electric energy supply.
EEU is mandated to distribute and retail electricity. We are also engaged in the [national] Universal Electricity Access Programme. We also provide electricity to neighbouring countries.
Though a lot of work remains to be done, the reorganization of EEPCo into EEP and EEU helped in strengthening our services. We are now focused and closer to our customers.
The last two decades witness huge investment in the power generation. Yet, the same can’t be said of investments made in upgrading and rehabilitation of distribution networks. Consequently, EEU seems crippled to distribute the power EEP generates.
Well, the points you raised are important. But, we have to see them from different [perspectives]. Indeed, the growth of [power supply] had been stagnant for many years [because of the] stagnation of the economy. Electricity is a derived demand. This is to say that its growth is in response to an economic and social progress.
Since [Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)] seized power [in May 1991] tremendous changes have been made in the sector. The country is now [going through] transformation, which can’t be realized without electric power. Progress can be made in agriculture, but we can only transform the sector into agro processing through electricity.
In 1991 [the country] produces only 378MW of electric power which currently is equal to the amount of electricity some industries use. We now produce 4,228MW, which is still small compared to the demand for power in country because of population [increase] and economic growth.
Of course, the government had given due emphasis to the generation and transmission of power, but due to limited investment capacity, less emphasis was given to the rehabilitation of distribution networks, most of which are old-aged. Now the government realizes that the biggest bottleneck is distribution.
Why was it difficult to undertake the rehabilitation and upgrading of distribution networks along with the generation and transmission of power?
We [lag] behind due to the lack of access to finance. Now that all the financial restraints are resolved, we have already begun the upgrading and rehabilitation works on overhead and underground distribution networks throughout Addis Ababa with three projects. One of the projects is funded by the World Bank while the two are financed by the government of China. Similar projects are underway in eight regional states.
These integrated projects include upgrading and rehabilitation of the transmission lines and distribution networks as well as building sub-stations. The completion of the projects will address existing problems associated with power [by] improving the frequency and duration of power outage, and voltage drop out. The [project in Addis Ababa] is scheduled to be completed before the coming rainy season.
EBR learnt that EEU conducted an assessment on the power loss due to poor capacity of distribution networks. Can you tell us about the exact figures of the loss?
It is true that there is power loss from the point of generation, all the way through distribution networks, until it reaches to the end users. Of course, there is an acceptable amount of power loss.
According to the study we conducted, the energy loss due to distribution network is huge, which accounts for more than 21Pct of the power generated. We now strive to make this loss to below 10Pct. With the ongoing and upcoming rehabilitation projects and implementation of the new Smart Metering, we will achieve that. [Smart Metering] will help us to improve the way we monitor customers’ power efficiency.
EEU overemphasizes on corrective maintenance rather than preventive maintenance and rehabilitation works. Will this change with the new system you’re implementing?
We are determined to pull ourselves from fire fighting – that is to say responding to emergency incidents.
We clearly set directions in our medium and long term strategies to upgrade the capacity of the network systems so that they give service for the coming 20 years. We also plan to modernize the whole system realise a breakthrough in customer handling.
In addition to the power loss, the wooden poles and the intertwined distribution networks hugely contribute for the unattractive image of Addis Ababa. Would there be any aesthetic changes that would come along with these projects to the city?
It will certainly transform the image of the city. All the wooden poles will be replaced by concrete poles for the overhead networks and the distribution wires are coated for insulation. One can witness the changes in places where the projects are ongoing. We are putting our footprint on the beauty of the city as well.
Our rehabilitation works require to be done in line with the master plan of the city. So, there is a real need of integration of works among other utility service providers such as, road [construction], water and telecommunication.
How successful are you in controlling, monitoring and inspecting your customers, especially those that have huge power consumption such as industries with the existing system in place?
We have a separate unit called the Industry Desk which is responsible for monitoring energy efficiency and providing support regarding power demands and related queries.
Regarding power efficiency of industries, EEP conducts energy audit such as the amount of energy they consume, the efficiency of machineries and equipment in use. In our case, if an industry is not consuming 90Pct of power they are supplied with, we penalize them in monetary terms. However, we believe that is not enough as power is a national resource. In order to make them more power efficient, we enforcing installation of Power Factor Corrector which measures the efficiency of electrical power and also serves as stabilizer.
Your company’s mission statement states that EEU strives to be a world-class utility and contribute towards nation building by ensuring delivery of cost effective, safe, reliable and high quality power. Isn’t it overambitious taking the present organizational status?
Indeed, it seems an inflated one. However, we believe that what we are doing at the present will help us live up to our mission [in the long run.]
What are you doing on public awareness to achieve energy efficiency?
This is an area where we have not done enough. Of course, our priority has been to upgrade our inefficient power services. Once we do this, we will [pay more] attention to the public [education] works. This is mainly because we are well aware of the dissatisfaction of our service delivery among the public. Hence, we prioritize the supply side.
We accept the feedback that EEU is late on the creation of public awareness about energy efficiency and others. Now, the communication office is begining to execute its awareness programmes. EBR
5th Year • January 16 2017 – February 15 2017 • No. 47