Opinion

How Can Geospatial Data and Analytics Ensure ‘Energy Access for All’ in Ethiopia?

By Alemayehu Agizew, Jake Stockman, Christine Odeph, and Dimitris Mentis

Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report indicates that Ethiopia has significantly increased electricity access. But a lot more can and shall be done. 

In 2020, electricity access was at 51.%, leaving a substantial number of the populace unserved. Electricity consumption in Ethiopia was among the lowest in the world standing at 91 kWh/Capita compared to the Sub-Saharan average of 535kWh/Capita and the global average of 3210 kWh/Capita. 

The nation is richly endowed with renewable energy sources, including hydro, wind, geothermal and solar, but this enormous potential remains largely unexploited. Most of the country’s energy supply stems from bioenergy, and in the case of domestic use, it is usually procured from unsustainable sources harmful to the environment and the users.

Ethiopia’s National Electrification Program (NEP 2.0) envisages universal electricity access, achieving 100% electrification by 2025 through 65% grid and 35% off-grid connection, with the additional target of reaching 96% grid connection by 2030. The NEP 2.0 combined Multi-Tier Framework (MTF) and geospatial mapping to determine electrification targets and strategic approaches. In particular, the Geographic Information System (GIS) platform at the Ministry of Water and Energy (MoWE) and Ethiopian Electric Utility (EEU) monitors the progress towards the achievement of both grid and off-grid electrification. 

Ethiopia has also developed a Climate-Resilient Green Economy Strategy (CRGE) to address the effect of climate change in the water and energy sectors.  In particular, the climate resilience strategy for energy focuses on two priority areas: (i) energy generation by diversifying the energy mix and improving energy efficiency, and (ii) energy access through improving the efficiency of biomass use and accelerating off-grid energy access.

The assistance of partners in the success of these programs is very important and the Ministry of Water and Energy in Ethiopia with support from the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Africa Clean Energy Technical Assistance Facility has launched the Energy Access Explorer (EAE) Ethiopia. 

Energy Access Explorer is an online, open-source geospatial platform that supports stakeholders in visualizing, overlaying, and analyzing data to inform energy planning activities and research in Ethiopia. Major milestones in this initiative include a Stakeholder Consultation Workshop on Energy Access Explorer and the Launch of Energy Access Explorer Ethiopia

There were also capacity-building workshops for MoWE experts, affiliated organizations, and graduate students. Another important milestone is the establishment of a working group that would facilitate the sustainability of EAE Ethiopia.  

The EAE combines geospatial data on energy demand and supply with other important parameters to make a multi-criteria analysis that enables users to identify high-priority areas for energy access interventions. The demand side data includes demographics (population density, asset ownership, etc.), and social and productive uses (schools, health facilities, agricultural activities, etc.). 

The supply side incorporates data on energy resources (wind power, solar power, small-scale hydropower, etc.), and power infrastructure (power generation plants, transmission and distribution network, mini-grids, etc.). The other important datasets include environment (such as groundwater potential, protected areas, and land cover), access to finance, proximity to cities, and more.

Key insights from the use of spatial data and analytics provided by EAE Ethiopia

1) Ensuring electricity access to all based on proximity to the grid or off-grid connection: 59% of the population can gain access to electricity based on existing and planned grid connections, and 41% of the population from off-grid using solar, wind, and small-scale hydropower. The use of multicriteria analysis in EAE for the year 2020 shows a 6% difference from the national plan (2025) in the proportion of on-grid and off-grid electricity access.

2. Safeguarding the social benefits of electricity access in health and education institutions: Access to electricity is key to the services provided by health centers and schools in Ethiopia. EAE analysis reveals that an unelectrified area accommodating 11% of the health centers and serving 13% of the population can be electrified through solar power.

3. Increasing the application of renewable energy sources for productive use in agriculture: Agriculture contributes significantly to the country’s economy but it’s largely rainfed and subsistence. Based on the EAE, 17% of the irrigated area that has moderate to very high aquifer productivity can use solar power to water the cropland.

Thanks to EAE’s dynamic Geographic Information System, the platform reduces software engineering and data transaction costs both for data providers and users. EAE enables clean energy entrepreneurs, energy planners, researchers, donors, and development-oriented institutions to identify high-priority areas where energy access can be expanded for equitable, socio-economic development.

Alemayehu Agizew is a Researcher and Ph.D. Candidate at College of Development Studies, Addis Ababa University

Hake Stockman is Energy GIS Research Assistant at WRI

Dimitris Mentis (Ph.D.) is Lead Energy Access Explorer at WRI,

Christine Odeph is a Communications and Engagement Coordinator for Energy Access at WRI

Editor’s note: The article reflects the authors’ opinion only, and not necessarily the views of the editorial opinion of EM News.