New program launches to power agriculture through solar

A solar appliance manufacturing program has been launched to accelerate an energy source for irrigation based agricultural development and household services.
The program was announced on August 18 by Precise Consult International to support the initiatives of the Ministry of Irrigation and Lowlands, and the Ministry of Water and Energy with a focus on solar appliances manufacturing in Ethiopia.
The program targets to assemble and manufacture 250,000 Solar Home Systems (SHS) and 25,000 Productive Use Energy (PUE) appliances, the latter with a focus on solar pumps.
Aisha Mohammed, Minister of Irrigation and Lowlands, said that with the launch of the solar appliance manufacturing program, the ministry aims to achieve a short-term goal of replacing approximately 200,000 diesel pumps that are in use and currently on demand for irrigation pumps.
She said that the ministry has adopted the idea of local manufacturing of solar appliances because local manufacturing at scale is expected to save up to 20 percent in foreign currency; in addition to developing the local technical capacity to provide after sales services which is one of the most critical gaps in the country.
“The success of this initiative is very important as the ministry is currently working with International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Bank to scale smallholder solar irrigation by availing much needed foreign exchange facility for companies to import solar kits for manufacturing and assembly,” Aisha highlighted during the launching ceremony held in Hyatt Regency Hotel with the presence of government officials, development partners, and representatives from off-grid energy companies and manufacturers.
As expanding irrigation is an important goal for the government, the ministry has established three main irrigation implementation strategies including empowering smallholder irrigation with reliable solar pumping technology on less than 5 hectares of plots and medium scale irrigation schemes with cluster farming on 5-500 hectares of land using surface and ground water irrigation schemes.
Studies show that up to 7 million hectares of smallholder farms can be irrigated using solar pumps from shallow ground water and surface sources.
A study by the Rocky Mountain Institute shows that electrifying irrigation has the potential to create an annual value of USD 1.2 billion by 2025.
Ethiopia has the third largest energy access deficit in Sub-Saharan Africa; and achieving universal access by 2025 as targeted by the National Electrification Program 2.0 means reaching over 10 million households with off-grid energy solutions in the next few years.
Since almost all solar appliances are currently being imported from overseas, the lack of foreign currency is a major obstacle standing in the way of achieving these worthy government objectives.
For instance, to meet the universal electrification target by 2025, USD 1.4 billion is needed in new forex plus USD 1.8 billion in local currency working capital for a total capital of USD 3 billion.
The statement of Precise Consult indicated that local assembly and manufacturing can help increase availability of solar appliances by optimizing the available forex.
In the meantime, a growing manufacturing industry can help create jobs, and ensure knowledge transfer to young skilled experts to maintain and fix malfunctioning solar systems in the country. The solar appliance manufacturing program which is funded by Shell foundation will work with key stakeholders to solve the key bottlenecks of the off-grid manufacturing sector focusing on: enabling improved access to forex for assemblers and manufacturers, technical assistance to high potential lighting and productive use energy (PUE) technology assemblers and manufacturers selected based on predetermined criteria and a grand challenge selection process, promoting better policy and regulations for off-grid solar systems assembly and manufacturing, and improved information to the sector through research and market intelligence.

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