“Electricity Supply for Cement Factory, Aligidir And Teseney Agricultural Projects Among Utmost Priorities” President Isaias (PartIII)
It is to be recalled that H.E. President Isaias Afwerki conducted an extensive interview with the national media outlets on the occasion of the New Year 2014 on the 9th of February 2014 in the port city of Massawa, regarding the overall situation of the country and also the regional state of affairs and future scenarios. Excerpts of the third part follow:
Efforts have been exerted to extend and also to solve deficit of electricity supply. There has also been an ongoing effort to put in place a network that could be connected with the Sudan. What are the upcoming prospects and expectations to be met in this regard?
Engineer Abrham, head of Eritrean Electricity Corporation, has given enough briefings about the supply of electricity. Hence, I would not like to repeat what has been said on this regard. However, it is important to mention that plans mapped out to extend supply of electricity remain to be white elephant projects. There may have been various reasons that stand as bottlenecks. If there is a need to increase the potential supply, there are a number of questions that could be posed. Therefore, to what extent would it be extended and in how would it be consumed? Once extended, would it be cost effective? There are huge and ambitious projects that have been carried out in a number of developing countries which are costly to maintain and also of financial burden. There are instances where supply for one city equals to 10 folds of the overall supply of that of our country. So, we could not follow their footsteps. What we take in to consideration at this moment is just to alleviate the existing problem. It has been said generators have been weakened and have not been able to generate the needed amount of supply. At times, it has also been said that there is deficit of petroleum.
The major problem has, however, been the overall potential of the power plant that could not exceed 80 watt. The same is with that of Beleza electricity supply distribution center. The interconnected system has also been overloaded and it has not met the level of demand. Due to such insufficiency, the cement factory and other industrial plants have remained inoperative. A lasting solution to such a demand is to introduce a better power plant that could meet the overall demand. These are huge issues that demand precautions so as to make a right decision. Before reaching to such a decision, it is a timely issue to see means and ways of alleviating the existing deficit. The cement factory should in the first place have an independent electricity supply. Even though it would not bring a lasting solution to the deficit, the former cement factory should resume production so as to alleviate the increasing demand. As is closely related to all construction works, an increase in the production of cement is among our priorities.
Bearing in mind that bringing a lasting solution would not be that much easy, projects need to be prioritized as per their importance. Next ranked priority is Teseney, Aligidir and its environs. There may be a need to secure supply of electricity in Asmara, but our agricultural projects need to be prioritized above everything else. Since various development projects that have been introduced in aloof areas could not be linked to the interconnected electricity supply, these are to be handled as part of the programs that are planned to be carried out at a national level. There should be, of course, an introduction of power plants that could meet timely needs. As much as possible, there should be an independent network in the western part of the country that stretches up to Haykota and which there by reaches to Omhajer, Gherset, Fanko, Teseney, and Aligidir. There is also a separate plan in the north that goes to Afhimbol. Taking in to account its importance, this project needs to be implemented as fast as possible. Assab should also have its independent power supply center that corresponds to its minimal demand. We have only been discussing about heat generated electricity supply. As there may be other sources of energy such as solar, wind and other sources of renewable energy, as soon as such projects are implemented in the places with such potentials, we would be able to move towards major national development programs. We should now, in the 2014, work on the cement factory and in the western part of the country in a way which cannot negatively affect major development programs. It has been said that Hirgigo power plant has been renovated. But, there is nothing certain about its sustainability. What could be the final result and as to how the deficit has been alleviated would be seen once the projects are implemented. There are a number of enterprises of higher importance in different parts of the country that relay on the availability of guaranteed supply of electricity. Could such plants be productive without 24 or 12 hours of sustainable electricity supply? Is the said renovated power plant capable of meeting the demands? At this moment, supply of electricity for households is not a priority. National industrial plants need to be ranked in the first place. Sustainability of any activity could not be secured unless supply of electricity generated from the interconnected system is increased in the range between 200 and 250 watt. Thus, electricity supply for the cement factory and projects to be carried out in the environs of Aligidir and Teseney should be viewed among the priorities. Finally, we could map out our strategic plan in electricity and generally energy supply. This is what we have been discussing with different partners. This is not only confined to funds alone but also in making right decisions as regards the type of power plant that we are about to introduce. Parallel to such development, we could move on through continuously addressing timey demands. We could say all construction programs could not be affected if the cement factory starts production at its highest possible potential in a period of time that stretches between March and May. Thus, given the fact that our construction programs would not be interrupted due to shortage of cement, we could map out plans accordingly. Provided that agricultural and other development programs could be implemented in due time, plans could be charted out parallel to the increased supply. To get rid of high expectations, people need to know the actual situation of electricity supply, and concerned bodies should give an updated briefing as regards such a deficit.
To what extent of the overall demand could the electricity supply that is said to be distributed from Sudan cover the existing demand?
We are not solely to relay on Sudan? Any plan mapped out by a particular nation would not have an importance, if any given nation has everything at hand. A transnational infrastructure such as of electricity and other services that would be put in place among neighboring countries would open a venue for complementarity. It could be said that we have learned much from our past experiences. Thus, any tie we develop with neighboring countries should depend in complementing one another. How this could be implemented on the ground is a major issue though. What we are planning to do in the respect of electricity could not have a major impact towards solving the problem. There are also threats that could come along with it for it is hard to manage what is not in once hands. As every country has its own sovereign choice, when an agreement is reached between two countries, there is a concern whether the supply would be guaranteed or not. Leaving aside such concerns, we have taken initiatives of cooperation based on a good will. What tangible things could we do apart from holding talks and drafting policies? Ours and Sudanese systems of electricity supply is very different. Its nature is also different in terms of technological advancement. Sudanese hydraulic system has vivid advantage over the heat generated energy supply we are using in here. But, we do also have our own advantage over that of the Sudanese. We should ultimately connect these two systems in the western part of the country. But, ultimately, what would be the amount of watt that could be generated and how much would be the expense? What have been produced from the heat generated sources of electricity demands dollar 0.25 cents per one kilo watt. This is indeed very expensive and we could not expect to buy such a supply with that much expense. Hydraulic system may cost from eight to ten cents although this could differ from country to country as per the vastness of investment activities that are to be carried out. It could also be cheaper. While considering whether Sudanese supply would be cost effective or not in relation to the activities we plan to carry out in this country, we are simultaneously working to connect them by erecting a line that stretches for about 60-65 km. This project may start this year. Once connected, it would not be linked with that of the country’s interconnected system for supporting infrastructure has not yet been put in place. What is really important is not only to encourage the spirit of mutual cooperation, but also to proceed towards the implementation of tangible programs. This may start in 2014, nevertheless there are other facilities that go parallel to it and thus implementation of such a project may take time. It is however important to notice that such like projects are not aimed at solving major deficit of electricity supply.
Internet and telecommunications service is among the major facilitators of economic and educational activities. Are there plans to introduce advanced technology and also to extend the existing bandwidth?
Apart from being means for dissemination of information, it is really hard to associate such a service with economic activities. There are of course economic activities facilitated through it. There is a huge gap between the perception of corporations, economic philosophies and the reality on the ground. Internet service could give a distorted image. But, this does not mean to undermine the role internet plays in actual economies. Information distributed through the internet is always coupled with issues that could pose threats that are not to be viewed lightly. Developed countries are, at this time, making huge surveillance on internet services. In our case, let alone to control internet service, a speedy and vast connectivity could not be achieved as long as fiber optic internet line is not introduced in the country. We are making discussions with Chinese partner companies so as to be connected with the fiber optic line that passed along the Red Sea. After connecting the major cities and remote areas of the country to a fiber optic line inside the country, there would be an effective and smooth connection to a global line. But, there is no economic activity in this country that relays too much on the availability of internet service. What is more is that airlines service is almost in a shaky ground. There is poor land transportation system, marine transport has been relaying on transshipment. It is hard to say our agricultural sector has reached at highest level of production, we have not yet developed marine resources in a way that could make due contribution in the country’s economy. So, there could be no miracle of economic growth that relays solely on the availability of reliable internet service. Once economic growth is realized, internet service or other means of communication could play an important role. This connectivity service could only facilitate but could not bring tangible economic progress. However, until we reach to a higher level of growth in different economic sectors, a reliable internet service should be put in place. A plan that could connect us to international line has been mapped out to be implemented in 2014. This is not, however, to be decided on our part alone and thus we are working for its realization through a reinforced cooperation with partner companies.