AORA to build pilot solar-hybrid plant in Ethiopia

The deal follows an MOU undertaken by the two entities in March, with construction set to begin by mid-2015. According to AORA, the Ethiopian government has plans to expand the deployment of installations to selected off-grid areas should the initial pilot scheme prove successful. AORA claims that its installations produce 100 kW of electricity and 170 kW of heat while taking up an area of less than 3,500 square meters.

AORA CEO Zev Rosenzweig said in a statement, "We are pleased to partner with the Ministry and look forward to bringing our technology to Ethiopia to provide the population with affordable access to power. Such access will have significant social and economic impact on off-grid communities, helping to provide power to schools and medical facilities, refrigeration for food processing and post-harvest storage, groundwater pumping and much more.

AORA did not release any information regarding the financial details of the deal between itself and the Ethiopian government. Further questions as to the length of installation, whether the project as fully or partly-financed by either party, future deployment plans, the measure of success, and how any energy generated will be used were asked by pv magazine. However, at the time of press, AORA’s representatives had yet to respond.

The deal between AORA and the Ethiopian government is the latest stepping stone in an ongoing drive by the African nation to develop its green power capabilities. In October, pv magazine reported that U.S. company Green Technology Africa had been chosen by the government-owned Ethiopian Electric Power Company to develop 300 MW of solar in the company at a cost of $600 million. In 2011, the German Society for International Cooperation found that Ethiopia had huge potential for solar, with off-grid areas making up 80% of the country. The country’s government also launched in 2011 the Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy that aims to make Ethiopia a middle-income nation by 2025.

Susanne von Aichberger is a market and technology analyst with Solarbuzz. She outlined the current situation in Ethiopia where in 2013 94% of the electricity generating capacity came from hydro, energy consumption was just 10% of the average across Africa, 90% of the population uses traditional biomass for cooking, and 70% use kerosene for lighting. Over three-quarters of the population, she said, have no access to electricity. She added, “According to the IEA, if the government wants to improve the energy supply, they need to have some huge projects. They launched a five-year growth and transformation plan in 2010, and they want to shift from traditional to modern electrical technologies. The priority for them is in indigenous sources.”

Any development within Ethiopia will undoubtedly be stymied by its turbulent and corrupt economy. Transparency International ranks the country 110th out of 175 in its Corruption Perceptions Index. The same index scores the country only 33 out of 100. World Bank figures quoted by the NGO also give the infant mortality rate as being 67.8 per 1000 live births, a life expectancy of just over 58, and a literacy rate of under 30%.