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.
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
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.
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."
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.
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.