All of Guraghe Zone is in a power blackout. Some towns of southwestern Oromiya, close to the nation's capital, Addis Ababa, are plunged in darkness.
It was night and we were travelling on a paved dusty road on what is a semi-arid region. From a distance, we saw flickering lights of Isuzu trucks. On every other night, the headlights of these trucks are the only light the residents of the Guraghe region see. The headlights flare across trees or homes. The rest of the landscape is black as night.
After 60 kilometers of traveling on this dusty road, we saw light on a mountain top. It was like a lighthouse on top of a huge mountain amidst the darkness of the Ghbe desert.
This mountain top is the Gelgel Ghibe II hydro-electric power project. Upon completion, Gelgel Ghibe II is expected to generate more than half of Ethiopia's current electric generating capacity.
But for now, Ethiopia is suffering a severe electricity shortage. Throughout this year, the capital city and other towns go through 14 hours of electric outages three days a week. But the scheduled power-shedding has turned into a random blackout.
"They no longer keep the scheduled power shedding," says a resident who requested anonymity. "It is frustrating not to know the light will be out," he added.
CEO of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation, Mehret Debebe says the problem is temporary. "Because the country is going through a transforming economic growth, we are experiencing power shortages. Industries are booming, trade and the rate we are bringing electricity to rural towns created the shortage. We saw a 24 percent increase in demand. The problem persisted because our planned commissioning of two hydro-electric generating projects was postponed. We are projecting the power cuts will continue until July."
Minister of Energy and Mines Alemayehu Tegenu says upon completion of projects, Ethiopia not only will cover its electricity demand, but also, plans are already in place to export power to neighboring countries. "We are completing the construction of power cables that connect our hydro-electric power stations to neighboring countries," he said. The minister also underlined that more power means, more rural areas will have access to electricity.
Meanwhile, Ethiopians who spoke to VOA on a condition of anonymity say the priority has to be given to restoring power supply and electrifying rural towns.