We have talked about the shortage of water in Addis Ababa; we have talked about the problems with the mobile network that makes you want to pull your hair out and we have talked about internet connection problems. Unfortunately for us, there still are more problems to talk about, such as the sudden total power outage that have been occurring in the past few weeks now. When there is power outage, it means you are literally and figuratively in the dark. It makes it very difficult to do your job. No lights, no computers, no TV or radio, and sometimes it might even mean no cell phones (if your battery dies).
Usually, when there were planned power cuts in the city, we are notified by the appropriate government body and we know the days of the week where we won’t have electricity in our homes and prepare accordingly.
Now, we suddenly and inexplicably find ourselves in darkness, without notice, and it always catches us off-guard.
Power outage has always been a problem in Ethiopia. Sometimes, it happens so often that we just get used to it and stop complaining. But when it is compounded with other problems, like water shortage, it becomes very difficult to function.
When will Ethiopia ever become self-sufficient when it comes to electricity? Hold on, aren’t we exporting electricity to neighboring countries like Djibouti and Sudan already? How does that work exactly? How about we keep the electricity we export for our own selves so we can actually get to the work that needs to be done?
Seriously, I know it’s all about foreign currency, but shouldn’t we be taking care of ourselves first before supplying others with something we are in need of?
Besides the personal inconveniences brought about by electricity shortage, this problem has a much bigger effect on the manufacturing sector. Factories are being hampered from producing their goods on time and in sufficient quantities, creating havoc in meeting delivery schedules. Some might say a number of factories are being closed because they are not able to cope with such power outages. There needs to be some sort of solution to this problem, surely. But what is that solution? It certainly beats me! Maybe we might need to look at solar solutions. In Addis Ababa there are some areas where the street lights are powered by a solar system. The first time I saw that, I was really impressed that we have now started to do that.
Commercial solar plants were first developed in the 1980s. The biggest commercial solar plant was installed in the Mojave Desert of California. This solar power plant has the ability to produce 354 MW. Even though solar energy might seem like a very reliable choice, the cost for setting up and maintaining such plants has been found to be far more expensive than other sources of energy, including wind power.
This means that, for Ethiopia, turning extensively to solar energy is out of the question, at least for now.
Although the challenges seem persistent year after year concerning power shortage and outage in Ethiopia, there are projects in the works to change all that. We all know of the Grand Renaissance Dam (GRD) being constructed although, like I have mentioned before, it will be a while before we actually get to see this huge project completed. But once it is finished, hopefully we will have enough power to supply the whole country, and then some.
On Tuesday, I went home from work to find out that it was going to be another night without electricity. I looked out of the window and I saw that it was dark, except for the big buildings which were powered by generators and which always seem like they are never affected by such problems. Losing power is one thing; but then there is the power surge, which sometimes destroys every electric appliance in my house, if I forget to unplug it after using it.
It has been stated that the electric outage that we have been experiencing recently is due to old transformers and transmission lines that needed to be maintained or replaced by newer ones having more capacity. Some doubt that is the case, but if it is, then hopefully they will be replaced soon enough and we will be done with outages once and for all.