Unfolding News from Home

asmarahutBy The Editor

The European Union Delegation in Asmara via its Facebook page announces that the Eritrean Ministry of Energy and Mines (MoEM) and a UK based SolarCentury Ltd. have signed a contract on 20 January 2017 to supply, install and commission a “solar PV generation system intended for the creation of a Mini Grids (2.25 MW)” for Maidma and Areza towns and surrounding villages. This undertaking “is a first step for a bigger project that will improve the livelihoods (increase income and access to social services: MDGs) of rural towns and villages not connected to the national grid,” the Union added.

The value of the contract is EUR 5,666,394.34 drawn from the Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) EU Energy Facility of the 10th European Development Fund. In order to bring the project into its completion the EU, the Government of the State of Eritrea, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) pledged a total budget of EUR 11,762,588. This project which will be managed by the MoEM in partnership with the European Union is a breakthrough. Such energy supply to the rural setting is something Asmara-online hails to all parties involved and wishes them for a successful end within budget and duration.

A 2.25 MW grid might look small but bringing small grids to the locals is better than having to depend on big ones elsewhere because localization of power grids not only ensures power self-sufficiency but also cuts the huge costs of transmission and distribution. What is needed is expansion and localization of services such as this. Besides, it is not easy to mobilize resources to build a mega grid systems that covers large areas.

What can be next is expansion of the services in surrounding areas. The Maidma town is close to the agriculturally rich Ubel, Megerba and all the way to the Mereb River areas. These areas are surrounded by vast water catchments and investments in micro-meso-macro dams and energy supply can have huge contributions to food security and promote agro-processing activities in these areas. If small and medium mechanized agro-farm and agro-value chain activities are promoted in these places with Maidma as a center of processing agro-products coming from both Ubel, Megerba, and Shambuqo areas the impacts on local populations would be huge. Hence, energy investment in these areas is worth of the Euro values above and should be continued to cover the nearby potentially rich agricultural areas.

The Editor, however, expresses his concern on sustaining services such as the above. In its 26th January posting in Tigrigna, Asmara-online has already expressed its concerns on the issues of sustaining rural water supplies due to failures of timely maintenance of the service. Local populations previously provided with clean water services suffer for months probably for years as regularly reported by local medias due to lack of timely maintenance of the service. This same failure by the Minister of Local Government and his regional and local agents should not be repeated by the Minister of Energy and Mines. In this regard, the editor advice the Minister for Energy and Mines to:

  • Prepare for adequate organizational and skilled human resources, and create linkages with national technical and vocational education and training providers in the field of renewable energy supplies;
  • Provide licenses to private investors in the field of renewable energy and outsource maintenance services to private entities including in the production of skilled human resources. These measures can also encourage your partners in the field of renewable energies for further investments.
  • Decentralize energy services to local governments immediately after the installation of the grids by the central government;
  • Plan ahead and announce how many projects you intend to implement in the medium and longer terms and don’t be driven by events and passively wait for opportunities; and
  • Continue mobilizing resources from other partners and governments using the EU and the UN show cases in Maidma and Areza sub-zones and elsewhere.