Energy Poverty in Ethiopia
Ethiopia continues to face a significant and persistent poverty crisis, despite some progress in recent years. According to U.N. data from 2021, approximately 19% of the population lives in poverty. One particular challenge the country grapples with is energy poverty, which affects individuals in poverty-stricken, rural and underdeveloped areas. Energy poverty refers to the lack of access to reliable, affordable and essential energy resources, such as electricity. Unfortunately, energy poverty in Ethiopia remains a pressing issue, with no signs of improvement. The nation’s demand for energy resources far exceeds its available supply, exacerbated by external factors that hinder the country’s means of production.

Energy Poverty in Ethiopia

Energy poverty persists as a pressing challenge in Ethiopia, impacting a significant portion of the population, particularly those living in poor or rural areas. With more than half of the citizens lacking access to electricity, rural areas, which house 80% of the Ethiopian population, face scarcity and limited accessibility to energy resources. Consequently, many resort to burning wood for cooking and heating, exacerbating the issue of energy poverty.

Ethiopia’s energy demands continue to rise due to rapid urbanization, GDP growth and population expansion in both urban and rural regions. However, the country’s energy infrastructure is insufficient to meet the needs of its 110 million citizens, as stated by the International Trade Administration.

Moreover, Ethiopia grapples with a drought crisis which further exacerbates the situation. The majority of the country’s energy production, about 90%, heavily relies on hydropower, making it vulnerable to the impacts of the worsening drought. Hydropower dams experience severe limitations in production capabilities, resulting in outputs well below their potential. In response, officials are exploring alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal power to diversify the energy mix and address the energy challenges faced by the nation.

Impact on Health and Living Standards

Energy poverty in Ethiopia is having a detrimental effect on the health and living conditions of affected individuals. Household reliance on wood and charcoal burning for heating and cooking has led to common respiratory complications due to the inhalation of toxic smoke produced during combustion. Insufficient resources, such as lack of electricity, further hinder ventilation capabilities and contribute to indoor pollution, particularly in homes using alternative energy sources like wood and coal.

Moreover, energy poverty is also impacting Ethiopia’s educational infrastructure. With the transition to delivering lectures via live television in response to COVID-19, rural schools without access to electricity are unable to broadcast lessons to their students, exacerbating educational disparities.

Addressing Energy Poverty in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is actively working on plans to address energy poverty through various initiatives. Over the next decade, officials aim to significantly increase the country’s energy generation capacity to 17,000 MW, more than triple the current capacity of 4,500 MW. To achieve this goal, multiple dams are currently under construction across Ethiopia, including the Koysha Hydro Power Dam, which will become the country’s second-largest dam upon completion. The Ethiopian Government is overseeing the project, which is expected to be finalized in three years, as of June 2022.

Power Africa, a public-private partnership led by the United States Government, is also actively involved in doubling access to electricity in sub-Saharan African nations, including Ethiopia. The partnership focuses on supporting various aspects of strengthening Ethiopia’s energy grid. This includes rehabilitating existing infrastructure, developing new infrastructure and ensuring reliable energy sources reach areas that currently lack access to electricity.

Looking Ahead

Despite ongoing challenges, officials in Ethiopia are making significant strides in addressing energy poverty. Construction of new energy production sites is underway, and both domestic and international initiatives are actively combatting this issue in the country. The progress so far is not only expected to alleviate poverty rates but also provide much-needed relief to those affected by energy poverty. While there is still room for more progress, the efforts and optimism of officials continue to drive positive change in Ethiopia’s fight against energy poverty.

– Nicholas DeLuca
Photo: Flickr