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2017-04-28 | story

Sustainable energy transitions to support the Climate-Resilient Green Economy Strategy

Ethiopia aims to build a green economy and to follow a growth path that fosters sustainable development. Through the development of its Climate-Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy, which is based on carbon-neutral growth, it envisions attaining middle-income status by 2025. Improving the productivity of the agricultural sector, protecting forests, expanding the coverage of electric power from renewable sources of energy and transitioning into modern and energy-efficient technologies are the main pillars of Ethiopia’s CRGE strategy. 

Supporting the CRGE strategy through four programs
The Environment and Climate Research Center (ECRC), hosted by the Ethiopian Development Research Institute, in partnership with EfD and the Global Green Growth Institute, is one of the partners supporting Ethiopia’s CRGE strategy through research and development. The center aims to launch four long-term programs: (i) Policy Research and Impact Evaluation (PRIE), (ii) Policy interaction and communication, (iii) Data management and knowledge repository, and (iv) Capacity building. The PRIE program, around which the other three programs will be built, focuses on the thematic areas of energy, industry, agriculture, forestry, water and urbanization.

Focus on sustainable energy transition
The energy sector is central to the CRGE strategy. Low-carbon energy can support green growth locally and has the potential to develop alternative energy sources regionally, with the goals of securing sources of income, contributing to development, and ultimately decoupling the country’s economy from the fluctuating prices and unsustainable nature of an oil-based economy. Ethiopia aspires to become a renewable energy hub in East Africa by ensuring access to affordable, clean and modern energy for all citizens by 2025. Furthermore, the two phases of the Growth and Transformation Plan have emphasized the energy sector, in an effort to meet energy demand in the country by providing sufficient and reliable power, with the further aims of exporting power to neighboring countries and developing alternative sources of renewable energy.

At present, 85% of Ethiopian households are rural. Almost all of these rural households use biomass fuel for cooking and only 5% have access to electricity. This puts the country at the bottom of the “energy ladder.” The “energy transition” to clean fuels is at its early stage, and the traditional fuel sources are very carbon intensive. To address these challenges, the two pillars of the CRGE strategy – expanding electricity generation and increasing the use of energy-efficient technologies – focus on energy transition and aim for massive electrification in an effort to expand coverage to all regions by 2020. The energy transition program has electric and non-electric energy components, with the electric energy component further classified as on-grid electric and off-grid energy programs. The non-electric programs mainly focus on energy for cooking and aim at promoting clean, energy-efficient cook stoves and expansion of biogas production for households.

Workshop to identify knowledge gaps
In June 2015, ECRC organized a three-day international workshop on a Sustainable Energy Transition Initiative (SETI) to identify key knowledge gaps and fundamental research questions on tradeoffs, drivers and impacts of energy transitions. A series of discussions have been held with relevant stakeholders (practitioners and researchers) in the energy sector. On top of this, the PRIE team for energy is busy reviewing the economic literature and policy documents to identify what is needed to implement sustainable energy transition in Ethiopia. Demand for electrification and its impact, demand and impact related to improved cook stoves, energy transition and effects of biofuel use are research themes identified under the PRIE program that are crucial for the energy sector.

The energy team at ECRC informs policy makers in two ways. The first approach is to generate evidence on the impacts of interventions in electric energy and non-electric energy programs. The second line is to study different ways of providing electricity and energy-efficient technologies and to identify the most cost-effective approaches.

Four energy sub themes
The research theme related to demand for electrification and its impact focuses on the adoption of electricity in grid-covered areas, estimating demand and incentives to create a sustainable market for solar technologies, as well as the socioeconomic impacts of different electrification technologies (grid extension vs. solar home systems) and economy-wide impacts of electrification programs on growth and greenhouse gas emissions. The second theme emphasizes the demand for improved cook stoves and the impact of this technology. Specifically, ECRC addresses how social networks among rural people affect technology adoption, how technologies spread to new users, and the role of local forest institutions in the adoption of improved biomass stoves and alternative fuel sources. The third theme focuses on energy transition. It emphasizes households’ transition from traditional fuel sources to modern and energy-efficient sources. Specifically, we address the role of incentives in electric cook stove adoption and biomass fuel consumption, the effects of sudden or extreme energy price changes on energy demand, and households’ responsiveness to energy price inflation. The effects of biofuel use, such as the impacts of biodiesel production on food security land use, are addressed in the last theme. The ultimate objective of the energy program at ECRC is to develop a research and strategic plan for the next five years on sustainable energy transition in Ethiopia in line with other cross-cutting issues of the PRIE program to support the country’s CRGE strategy. 

Researchers involved:
Alemu MekonnenSied HassenAbebe DamteAmare FentieYonas AlemGunnar KöhlinSubhrendu PattanayakTensay Hadush and Zenebe Gebreegziabher.

This story relates to SDG nr 1,2,6,7,8,9,11,13 and 15


ECRC presented five-year research plan in high-level workshop.