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The power shortage and its high economic price constitute a major problem for development in the African region, it was stated at the 6th African Rift Geothermal Conference held at the UNECA.

Speaking at the conference, Water, Irrigation and Electricity Minister Motuma Mekassa said that the region’s success in combating poverty and underdevelopment will, among other things, depend on how soon and how effectively the existing power related problems are solved.

“The development of energy resources and infrastructure is prominent across the continent; through we still face challenges in finance, technology and implementation capacity. In this regard, we are forging ahead in this endeavor with the full understanding of the crucial role played by the provision of modern, reliable, secure, affordable and efficient energy services, as a driver of social and economic growth and development,” Motuma stated.

In Ethiopia, geothermal energy exploration began four decades ago and throughout those years over 22 areas in the Rift Valley have been identified as having  good quality geothermal resources with an estimated electrical potential of 10,000 mega watts. However, progress on developing the sector has been rather slow.

“The electrical development of geothermal power in Ethiopia had been constrained by various factors including, high upstream development risks, limitations in geothermal technological knowhow and also because our focus had been centered on hydropower development in the past,” Motuma stated. He underlined that in recent years the government has been giving the sector more focus and encouraging investors to come to the country and develop the energy source.

The aim of the African Rift Geothermal Conference is to promote regional cooperation, create an information exchange platform on the exploration, development, investment and utilization of the geothermal resources in the region and elsewhere in the world.

Speaking on the relationship between producing energy and the environmental impact it may have, Regional Director of UN Environment Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo stated that all projects that are supported by UN Environment, regardless of what type of project it is, will be provided in the frame work of sustainable development.

“When you talk about sustainable development you talk about three pillars; the economic pillar, the social pillar and the environmental pillar. In the exploration of the earth’s surface, we always make sure that these three pillars are taken care of, “she stated.