Ethiopia has begun electric power rationing on an hourly basis after its power generating dams could not fill sufficient water, according to the Ethiopian government.
The country has been going through severe power shortages for several months now, affecting factories, businesses, hotels, banks, and internet and communications users.
Briefing journalists on Friday, Minister of Water, Irrigation, Dr. Engineer Seleshi Bekele said lack of sufficient water at the dams resulted in 460 MW power deficit which in turn forced the government to introduce power rationing until July 7, 2019,
Accordingly, domestic customers have been divided into three categories and each category will get electric power service in shifts for the duration of five hours.
“In order to fill the supply gap, the country also suspended power sale to Sudan while reducing supply to Djibouti by half, he said.
Due to the power cuts, the country would lose more than $100 million, which otherwise could be earned from power sale to its neighbors.
Food processing, pharmaceutical, export-oriented companies as well as other social service delivering institutions will, however, be exempted from the power cuts.
Insufficient rainfall and flood from the country’s highlands where rainfall occurs twice in a year have downsized the volume of water entering into the dams.
Since May 8, 2019, domestic consumers have been facing blackouts for several hours each day, while cement and steel firms, as well as businesses all over the country, have been operating for fewer hours due to the power cuts.
According to the minister, the dams are expected to fill enough water during the coming main rainy season and produce at their full capacity.
Currently, Ethiopia gets 90% its total electricity from hydropower generating plants with a total of installed capacity of almost 3,815 megawatts.
One of the biggest hydropower projects the country has been building is the Great Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD). The project, the largest of its kind in Africa, is behind schedule but 68% complete, according to government reports.
Upon completion, GERD, Africa’s biggest hydroelectric dam project, is set to begin generating power next year and will have more than 6000 MW generating capacity when completed after four years if the progress continues at the current pace as the government is claiming.
Although the country had its sights on power exports to neighboring countries for long, Ethiopia never had a reliable power supply to its own citizens. Even in good times, it common for one area or the other to go into blackouts lasting hours, sometimes days.
The reason is not just a matter of supply and demand, but also of poor grid infrastructure, which, by world standards, is archaic and lacking basic maintenance.
The country is littered with power generators, ready to spring up when local power fails. In addition to the downtime and loss of productivity, these are added expenses that large and small businesses in Ethiopia must incur, one of several factors that limit their competitiveness.
Power rationing is not new to Ethiopia. It happened before when there was severe power shortage three years ago before Ghibe II hydropower became operational with a power capacity of 1800 MW.