Ethiopia Energy and Environment Facts

Natural resources, energy and environment

Hydropower is one of Ethiopia’s most important natural resources and a rapid expansion of dams and power plants is ongoing. The construction of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in the Blue Nile has caused concern in Egypt, which fears that the huge dam will affect the amount of water in the downstream river. Of the mineral resources found in Ethiopia, only gold is mined in larger quantities.

Ethiopian hydropower was hardly used at all for a long time, but with the aid of foreign aid and investment, a major investment was initiated after the turn of the millennium. Capacity has increased rapidly and now almost all electricity consumed in the country is extracted by hydropower. Ethiopia exports electricity to Kenya, Sudan and Djibouti.

  • COUNTRYAAH: Major exports by Ethiopia with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.

With the help of foreign companies, the electricity grid is expanded and the proportion of residents who have access to electricity is increasing rapidly. It does, however, come from a low level; In 2018, six out of ten residents were reported to have access to electricity.

Among several major hydropower projects is the Gilgel Gibe project on the Omo River. Gibe I and Gibe II were completed in 2004 and 2010, respectively, while Gibe III was inaugurated in 2016. The dam at Gibe III is one of the highest in Africa and creates a 15-mile-long artificial lake. Critics warn that it is destroying sensitive ecosystems and drying large areas along Omo and Lake Turkana at the Kenya border. It poses a threat to livelihood and living conditions for half a million people. Among them are several people groups with traditional ways of living. Omo is the most important inflow to the ecologically unique Lake Turkana.

In 2011, the construction of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (formerly called the Millennium Dam) started on the Blue Nile, not far from the border with Sudan. The dam will be the largest in Africa. The construction project has caused concern in Egypt and Sudan, which is downstream and dependent on the Nile for its water supply.

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Ethiopia is also investing in other renewable energy sources. A large wind power plant was inaugurated in 2013 in Tigray in the north. A geothermal plant is being built 20 miles south of Addis Ababa.

There are also oil and natural gas deposits in the country. The assets are mainly located in politically sensitive areas, such as Ogaden in the south-east and Gambella at the border with Sudan. This makes exploration and production risky. No commercial extraction of oil or natural gas occurs. Ethiopia is dependent on imports for its oil supply.

Household energy consumption is based on wood, charcoal and animal waste. The hunt for firewood has resulted in large forest areas being felled, which has caused soil erosion, among other things. More than a third of Ethiopia was covered by forests more than 100 years ago, but in 2000 the figure was down to a few percent. Extensive tree planting projects have since reversed the trend, and according to official data, the proportion of wooded land was up 15 percent in the mid-2010s.

Gold production increased since the country’s largest gold mine, in Lega Dembi 50 km southeast of Addis Ababa, was sold to a Saudi mining group in the late 1990s. Extraction is also carried out of pot ash and lime and marble, used in the construction sector, and salt for households and the leather tanning industry. Furthermore, deposits of platinum, tantalite, iron and copper are found.


Energy use per person

499 kilos of oil equivalent (2014)

Electricity consumption per person

70 kilowatt hours, kWh (2014)

Carbon dioxide emissions in total

11 599 thousand tonnes (2014)

Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant

0.1 ton (2014)

The share of energy from renewable sources

92.2 percent (2015)



Demonstrations ahead of parliamentary elections

Opposition parties are holding several demonstrations ahead of the elections in May 2015. Nearly 100 people are arrested, including the secretary general of the Blue Party. Most are released within a week.


Ethiopian authorities are accused of persecution and torture

Amnesty International accuses Ethiopian authorities of “systematic persecution and torture” by members of Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group. Since 2011, at least 5,000 oromo have been arrested for alleged opposition to the government, says Amnesty. Dozens have been killed according to the organization’s report.

Four journalists are sentenced to prison

Three magazine publishers are each sentenced to just over three years in prison for “stirring up violent resistance, spreading unfounded rumors and participating in conspiracy to illegally abolish the country’s constitutional rule”. All three are sentenced in their absence; they left the country when charges were brought against their magazines Addis Guday, Lomi and Fact. A few weeks later, journalist Temesghen Desalegn is sentenced to three years in prison for “defamation and revulsion” for political chronicles he wrote in 2012 for the now defunct magazine Feteh.


Prosecution against multiple media

The government is prosecuting six magazines, accused of encouraging terrorism, threatening national security, stirring up religious and ethnic hatred, and blaming public figures and institutions.

Most foreign refugees in Africa

According to the UNHCR UNHCR, Ethiopia is now the African country that houses the most refugees from other countries, nearly 630,000. Nearly half of Ethiopian refugees come from South Sudan.


Opposition leaders are arrested

Four representatives of three opposition parties are arrested, without any charges being presented.

Detained journalists are charged with terrorism

Prosecutions are brought against the bloggers and journalists who were arrested in April. They are officially charged with terrorism through contacts with the banned organization Ginbot 7 and for having planned attacks.

Sentenced to death is handed over to Ethiopia

A doomed opposition politician extradited from Yemen appears on television after returning to Ethiopia. Andargachew Tsige, who is a member of the Ginbot 7 Forbidden Movement, was convicted in his absence for terrorism in both 2009 and 2012. He also holds British citizenship.


Journalists are fired after reporting protests

Twenty journalists at the state Oromia Radio and Television Organization are dismissed, without any formal reason. They themselves believe it may have to do with reporting on the protests against plans to expand Addis Ababa.


Protests against urban transformation

Protests erupt when it becomes known that Addis Ababa will be formally allowed to grow and incorporate part of the surrounding state of Oromia. At least 17 people are reportedly killed, the majority of students, when police open fire to protesters. Several hundred arrests.

Further arrests of journalists and bloggers

Six government-critical bloggers, who belong to a group that calls themselves Zone 9, and three journalists are arrested and accused of inciting violence. Amnesty International describes the arrests as yet another blow to opposition or independent votes.


Ethiopian journalist receives press freedom award

Eskinder Nega (see July 2012) is awarded the International Press Freedom Award Golden Pen of Freedom Award.

Ethiopia joins the peace force in Somalia

The Ethiopian soldiers who have been stationed in Somalia since 2011 formally join the UN-supported peacekeeping force Amisom in the neighboring country.

Ethiopia Energy and Environment Facts

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