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Voith’s new center for hydropower projects in East Africa

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 Ethiopia's State Minister of Water, irrigation and Electricity Dr. Frehiwot Woldehanna
Ethiopia’s State Minister of Water, irrigation and Electricity Dr. Frehiwot Woldehanna

Technology group Voith has opened its new East Africa Hub in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

In doing so the company is highlighting its active contribution to the development of electricity generation from hydropower in East Africa.

From now on, the technology group will be planning and coordinating projects in nine countries in the east of the continent from this new facility. The opening ceremony was attended by Ethiopia’s State Minister of Water, irrigation and Electricity Dr. Frehiwot Woldehanna, German ambassador to Ethiopia Brita Wagener, Uwe Wehnhardt, CEO of Voith Hydro and Member of the Corporate Management Board, and numerous guests from the business and political arenas.

Voith has been a partner in the region for more than 70 years

In his opening address, Uwe Wehnhardt emphasized the enormous potential of hydropower in the region. “Voith has been supporting the development of clean energy generation in Africa since the 1940s. We are reinforcing this commitment through the opening of our facility in Addis Ababa,” says Wehnhardt. Voith will work with customers and investors to continue to play an active role in developing a sustainable energy supply in Africa. In this context, training measures are an important element for Voith and will in future also be coordinated from Addis Ababa. The purpose of the training is to pass on the company’s extensive expertise in hydropower to local experts. Because Voith sees its role in the region not only as a supplier of cutting-edge hydropower technology but also as a full partner for developing energy infrastructure.

Many reasons for Ethiopia as a location

There were several reasons in favor of the new Voith location in Ethiopia.

“Good market conditions and the proximity to our customers and partners, as well as the hydropower market potential and impressive economic development in recent years make Ethiopia an ideal base for our new site,” explains Uwe Wehnhardt.

With a hydropower potential of 45,000 MW, Ethiopia has one of the largest resources on the African continent. Since 2011, the country has been boosting the development of renewable energies and aims to be the energy hub for East Africa in the medium term. “Due to the longstanding history of hydropower projects in Ethiopia there are a large number of well-trained experts in the country. Some of these experts are now supporting us in our new East Africa Hub,” says Wehnhardt. The good logistics are also a point in favor of Ethiopia. For example, all the countries serviced – Egypt, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia can be reached by direct flights in just a few hours.

Numerous projects under construction

Already, Ethiopian hydropower plants with Voith technology are supplying up to 900,000 households in the country with clean, sustainable electricity. One of these power stations is Gilgel Gibe I, which went onto the grid in 2004. Its three Francis turbines from Voith have a capacity of more than 180 MW – sufficient output to supply electricity to over 120,000 households in the rural Oromia region around 260 km to the south-west of Addis Ababa. For the Gilgel Gibe II power plant Voith also supplied four Pelton turbines and generators and the electrical and mechanical equipment. It also trained the power plant personnel. Before Gilgel Gibe II was operational, only 15 percent of Ethiopian villages had electricity. Nowadays half of all rural communities are connected to the grid.

Numerous other hydropower projects are currently under construction in Ethiopia. In the coming years they will increase the installed capacity by a further 1,500 MW and also bring Voith’s share of electricity generation from hydropower to around nine percent of the country’s entire power generation.

Voith is also playing a leading role in hydropower projects in other East African countries. For example, the company is currently upgrading the small power plant Wanjii in Kenya. Voith is replacing the turbines, generators, control technology and all electrical and mechanical equipment. This will increase the capacity of the power plant by around 20 percent. The comprehensive upgrade is set to be completed by mid-2019.

Edited by Neo Sesinye
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