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Ethiopia: Mainstreaming Energy Access into National Planning

Ethiopia has made significant progress in recent years in expanding energy access, but the country’s experience also highlights many of the challenges in providing sustainable energy for all. Even though the government has recognized the importance of energy access in rural areas and included energy access in its strategic planning, only 1 in 20 rural households has electricity. The government efforts have focused on grid extension, but not all towns and villages can be reached by the grid – and even where the grid has arrived, the cost of connecting a house may be prohibitive. Off-grid options, meanwhile, have been slow to take hold because of limited funding, lack of private-sector engagement, and lack of government leadership and institutional capacity. Even promising initiatives such as the promotion of domestic biogas and clean ethanol cookstoves, both supported by international donors and NGOs, have been slow to scale-up.

Yet clearly, the potential is there, and the rise of sustainable energy to the top of the United Nations’ and the European Union’s agenda creates an opportunity to accelerate progress on rural energy access, in Ethiopia and across Africa. Carbon finance could also be a valuable source of funding. And several bilateral donors and NGOs are enthusiastic.

The key, then, is to address the fundamental policy and institutional gaps that have prevented the development of a coordinated, balanced, truly sustainable rural energy expansion programme for Ethiopia. Our analysis and field research suggest that Ethiopia can count on significant technical and financial assistance if it undertakes this effort – among others, from funders who are already supporting energy projects in the country. The potential benefits are huge: greatly improved quality of life and new economic opportunities in rural areas, a large infusion of new investment, new sources of revenue, and a chance to not only achieve the Millennium Development Goals, but become a model for the new “green economy” in Africa.

Download full study of SEI here.