The Eritrean Energy Sector
by RVB

Eritrea Energy Links:

     Stoves & Efficiency

     Biomass Maps

     Solar Resources

     Wind Energy

     Oil Exploration

Eritreans have one of the world's lowest energy consumption rates.  Per capita gross energy consumption in Eritrea is about 3000 kW-hr/year with commercial energy consumption (petroleum products and electricity) being less than 1000 kW-hr/year/person.  Commercial energy consumption in other developing countries tends to be several times higher. Meanwhile, per capita energy consumption in the U.S. is over 100 times the rate of commercial Eritrean energy consumption at 100,000 kW-hr per person. 

Eritreans consume relatively small amounts of  biomass, petroleum products, electricity, and solar energy.  Approximately two million tons per year of  fuel wood, dung, and crop residues are consumed in Eritrea: primarily in the household sector. Meanwhile, about 220,000 tons of oil products are consumed annually in the transportation, industrial, and household energy subsectors.  Petroleum products include gasoline, diesel fuel, fuel oil (for electric generators), kerosene (for cooking and lighting), and liquid petroleum gas (for cooking). Electricity consumption amounts to a little over 100 Megawatt hours per year. 

About 80% of energy use is from biomass supplies in Eritrea. In Eritrea's society, traditional uses of biomass and solar energy supplies predominate.  In most Eritrean homes,  wood, dung, and crop residues are burned for cooking, heating, and lighting while kerosene lamps, candles, and flashlights used as additional lighting sources. Solar energy is traditionally used for clothes and crop drying, but is largely unaccounted for in energy sector surveys. 

Only 20% of Eritreans have access to electricity.  Electricity is available in only the larger cities and towns, leaving about 80% of the Eritrean population without electricity.  Some smaller villages have community diesel generators which can provided some households a small amount of electricity (30 to 100 watts) for selected hours in the early evening.  For that portion of the population with access to electricity, per capita electricity consumption is approximately 0.5 kWh/day/person.  Averaged over the entire population, per capita electricity consumption is 1/5 this amount.  Of the electric supply, 57% is used by industry, 22% is used by the household sector, and the  remaining 21% is for commercial customers. Electricity consumption is growing at about 10% per year. 

Eritrea's energy strategy is to diversify sources, increase efficiency, and expand access to electricity.  In order to diversify energy sources  wind energy and alternative biomass energy supplies are being actively investigated, wood fuel stocks are being increased through regulation and tree planting schemes, oil exploration activities are being carried out, and solar energy is being promoted for high value rural uses. 

A multi-pronged effort is being made for increased energy efficiency.  The first measure taken to promote efficiency, is to charge the real cost of energy.  In general energy subsidies are avoided unless they reflect real economic savings from the use of the subsidized energy source. By avoiding energy subsidies, the economic viability of improved efficiency is enhanced.  Secondly, major investments are being made to restructure the national electric power supply system.  New, higher voltage lines are being installed in the electrical grid in order to increase transmission and distribution efficiency.  Also larger, more efficient generators are being installed and the national grid is being expanded in order to decommission older, less efficient diesel generators.  In addition, an appraisal-level industrial efficiency audit has been performed, to identify potential industrial investments in increased efficiency. Furthermore, formulation and implementation of standards for appliances, energy devices and household electical installations is underway. 

Research and policies are also supported  to improve household stove efficiency, and to support improved efficiency designs. One component of this is that the government tries to encourage the use of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) for cooking in urban areas.  Limited biomass supplies, and the polution effects from wood smoke make it ill-advised to use wood and dung for cooking in cities.  In addition, the life-cycle efficiency of electricity use for cooking is lower than that for LPG.  The diesel generators that produce the electricity are approximately 35% efficient at converting fuel to electrical energy.  Meanwhile transmission losses combined with the 50% to 60% efficiency of the electric stoves means that less than 20% of the original energy from the diesel fuel is used in electricity-based cooking.  By comparison, for LPG stoves about 30% to 40% of the heat content in the fuel goes into cooking.  Therefore the government provides a limited cross-subsidy from gasoline to LPG in order to reflect the real national benefits of increased LPG use. 

Increased energy services will require effective investments.  It is apparent from the current status of the Eritrean energy sector, that the main priority must be sustainable expansion of energy services to the Eritrean people.  This will require both the development of new supplies and more efficient utilization of current energy resources. Recent research shows that in the household biomass sector alone, it may be possible to double the efficiency of energy use. Aggressive programs and investments in increased efficiency will be a key element to rapidly increasing Eritrean's standard of living (one of the world's lowest). In addition, solar energy is economical for high value rural applications, and utility scale wind and geothermal resources may provide a cheaper alternative to the current diesel-generated electricity. Recognizing this, the Eritrean government and internatioanl aid agencies are investing hundred of thousands of dollars in village-level solar energy development, and in wind and geothermal energy studies. Given the key role energy has in maintaining and increasing the quality of life, these efforts need to be supported by all of those involved in Eritrea's national development process. 



Government of Eritrea (1995), National Environmental Management Plan, Eritrean Agency for the Environment.
Asmara, 1995, 236 pp.

Secretariat of the National Environmental Management Plan for Eritrea (NEMP-E) (1995) "Special issue: Energy, minerals & water, an environmental perspective,"  Environment Eritrea Newsletter No. 4, Eritrean Agency for the Environment, May 1, 1995, 35 pp.

Kraushaar, Jack J. & Ristinen, Robert A. (1993), Energy and problems of a technical society, Second edition, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1993, 488 pp.