Powering Ethiopia’s Health Centers During the COVID-19 Crisis

Like several other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of mid-July, the country had nearly 10,000 cases of COVID-19 with 163 confirmed deaths. These numbers are expected to rise in the months ahead. To meet the increasing demands on essential response and recovery services, it is critical that health care facilities have access to reliable electricity.

EEU staff inspecting feeder meters as trained by Power Africa at West Addis Ababa Substation, Ethiopia.
EEU staff inspecting feeder meters as trained by Power Africa at West Addis Ababa Substation, Ethiopia.

Ethiopia’s state-owned power distribution company, Ethiopian Electric Utility (EEU), provides electricity to about three million customers across the country, most of them in the Addis Ababa and Finfinne regions, the most populous in Ethiopia. These regions are also home to nearly 200 hospitals and health care facilities, which rely on EEU for power.

Power Africa’s ongoing support to EEU is improving operations and boosting the utility’s financial well-being, which enhances the reliable supply of electricity to essential health care facilities. In response to the pandemic, Power Africa is also supporting specific technology-based operations and customer service initiatives that enable greater social distancing for employees and customers and help mitigate the spread of COVID-19:

  • Mapping customers linked to low- and medium-voltage lines using a geographic information system (GIS) tool developed by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and funded by Power Africa, which helps EEU manage customer accounts remotely and minimizes the need for field technicians to visit residences;
  • Overlaying distribution-line data with existing hospital locations, enabling EEU to remotely target 37 hospitals and clinics in the Yeka Sub-City of Addis Ababa and ensuring that these health facilities continue to receive reliable and enhanced energy service;
  • Improving the efficiency of customer meter readings — the average number of customer meter readings is up from 80 to 150 per day, allowing the utility to devote more resources to essential COVID-19 activities; and
  • Reducing EEU’s energy losses through regular energy audits, improved customer billing, and increased inspections of faulty meters, thus helping the utility attain a firmer financial footing and strengthening its ability to provide service.

The economic impacts of COVID-19 on consumers also affect utilities like EEU. When customers are either unable or unwilling to pay for the electricity they use, the utility incurs deficits that affect its operations. EEU estimates that these deficits amounted to nearly $100 million in its previous fiscal year.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Power Africa was helping EEU turn this situation around by reducing technical and commercial losses and increasing revenue: In January 2020, EEU reported a revenue increase of approximately $9 million as compared to January 2019, and in March, an increase of approximately $17 million over March 2019.

An EEU with more efficient operations and improved finances will be in a better position to help Ethiopia weather and recover from the effects of COVID-19 and point the way toward a brighter future for the entire East African power sector.

Learn more about Power Africa’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts: https://www.usaid.gov/powerafrica/coronavirus

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A U.S. Government-led partnership that seeks to add 30,000 MW and 60 million electricity connections in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030 > https://bit.ly/2yPx3lJ

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