Eritrea, located on the Horn of Africa, is rich in Sun and the Eritrean government believes in the development of solar energy, with the availability of 6 kilo Watt hour (Kwh) per square meter per day which is double to that of Italy and six times that of the UK.
Antonio Bonanni is the project manager of the Italian company Enertronica that engaged in the construction of photovoltaic systems in Eritrea after being awarded two contracts in recent years by the European Union and funded through the European Development Fund (EDF).
Not surprisingly, Brussels announced last December to provide Asmara 200 million euro aid for the years 2016-2020 in support of the energy sector, in the face of one of the lowest rates of access to ‘electricity’ that severely restricts economic development as well as the population’s access to social services such as schools, hospitals and health centers.
“Less than 50% of the population has access to electricity,” said Antonio Bonanni to askanews.
In fact, in the capital Asmara, it is normal to stay in the dark for a few hours during the day and only the wealthy have generators, fueled by diesel, the cost is prohibitive for most people.
The absence of electricity involves often also the lack of water as most of the housing are equipped with tanks and reservoirs.
“Eritrea has an electricity network that needs to be put in place as well as having a few stations, the network is old, has low efficiency, so the energy that is to create is lost and this explains why less than 50% of the population has access to electricity,” said the project manager of Enertronica.
To address this situation, the Asmara government has begun to focus on solar energy, entering in photovoltaic systems as well as batteries that are charged during the day for use at night.
Enertronica won a first European tender worth a million euro in October 2014, for the creation of a smart grid, which, thanks to the simultaneous presence and coordinated photovoltaics, batteries, diesel generators and an intelligent network national distribution of electricity, can guarantee continuity with the energy needs of the training and research center ERCOE (Eritrean Centre for Organisational Excellence).
According to Bonanni, the government has chosen the ERCOE to launch a “pilot plant”, which feeds the central training in business and management, located 35 kilometers from Asmara.
“From this project it is then born the second project consisting of 73 plants, which will go instead to fuel agricultural centers, a research laboratory of the Ministry of Agriculture, veterinary clinics and a center for the collection of eggs,” said Bonanni, referring to the second EU contract of 7 million euro, won by the same Italian company in February 2015.
“Now time to start projects for the population,” said Bonanni.
In fact, reading the National Indicative Programme (NIP) 2014-2020 that will be funded by the EU, it is clear the intention of the Asmara government is focusing on photovoltaics as well as wind energy to ensure electricity supply to the population, improve access to services, and especially to support economic development in the agricultural and fisheries sectors in many centers.
The NIP also includes the restoration of the electricity networks of Asmara and Massawa to improve efficiency, but also the development of a national plan for energy development of the country for the next 25 years including the study of other clean energy sources such as geothermal.
When asked what the main issues that a company faces in Eritrea, Bonanni has lamented the lack of “qualified” and the absence of civil works. The difficulty in finding qualified personnel has prompted the Italian Embassy to launch a course for installers of photovoltaic systems in Italian schools in Asmara in collaboration with Enertronica.
Bonanni says enthusiastically, lectures are given to students of the last years of High School and the Institute for surveyors. In addition to the lectures, courses also provided as internships in Enertronica, with the ability to offer the most deserving students jobs in the company.
“The initiative aims both at giving young people an opportunity for skilled employment in Eritrea and to ensure companies that win contracts in the renewable energy sector the opportunity to find professional profiles corresponding to their needs”.
* Software translation from Italian language (Edited by TesfaNews)