The East African country of Djibouti has announced plans for a new large-scale solar power project, to be developed by an international developer, as it aims to source 100% of its energy from renewable energy.
Switzerland’s Green Enesys will develop a 300 MW solar power plant in Djibouti, the government has recently announced. Once commissioned, the project will possibly be among the largest solar power projects in Africa. Green Enesys will invest an estimated €360 million to install the project.
Djibouti’s Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources has stated that work on the project has already started. The project will be set up in six phases of 50 MW capacity each in Grand Bara desert. However, no timeline for the completion of the project has been put forward.
Djibouti plans to source 100% energy from renewable energy sources but is highly dependent on hydro power. The country does have substantial solar energy resource which it is only beginning to tap.
Last year, SkyPower Global had announced plans for 200 MW solar power projects in Djibouti. The company plans to set up the entire capacity in four phases over a period of four years. The total investment is expected to be around $440 million.
Djibouti has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from business-as-usual levels by 2030. In the renewable energy sector, the government aims to set up onshore wind energy projects and solar power projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For these and other mitigation projects an investment of more than $3.8 billion will be required. With an additional $1.6 billion, the country will be able to reduce emissions by a further 20%.
A new IRENA report provides a 5-year plan for using Djibouti’s abundant renewable energy sources to solve the nation’s serious concerns regarding rising energy demand, limited energy security, and rampant unemployment. Astonishingly, IRENA claims that by 2020, 100% of Djibouti’s energy demand can be met through renewables. The economic renaissance that could occur with a transition to renewable energy sources would be a significant improvement for the entire country, but can it happen within five years?
From the earliest records of Ancient Egypt, Djibouti has sat at the head of a prominent piece of real estate. Strategically situated on the busiest shipping lanes in the world, the land of Djibouti is a modern commercial hub on the “Horn” of Africa controlling access to both the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Once known as “Punt,” the region we now know as Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Somalia was a source of exotic mystery to the earliest Egyptians, recorded in the ancient hieroglyphs as “Ta Netjeru,” or “The Land of God.”
IRENA Offers Renewal to “The Land of God”
Today, Djibouti is a straining nation heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels and power, with around 50% of its population having no access to the national grid, and a rampant national unemployment rate of 60%. It wasn’t always this way, however. Djibouti, sitting at the heart of an empire with rays of power emanating in all directions, was once the geographic location through which all manner of riches, power, and glory passed.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an intergovernmental organization promoting adoption and sustainable use of renewable energy, is offering a 5-year plan to a 100% clean energy economic renaissance that may just possibly restore Djibouti to a semblance of Punt’s former glory.
The Former Glory of Punt
Considered the aboriginal home of the ancient Dynastic Egyptians, hieroglyphics describe exhibitions to Punt from as early as the 25th Century BC, or the Fifth Dynasty of Pharoaoh Sahure. Our modern fascination with ancient Egypt as the root of our civilization is equally matched by early Egyptian fascination with Punt as the root of theirs, as well as the perceived home of their sun god Amun. (there goes the “space aliens” theory…!)
While the consensus is still out on the exact royal seat of historical Punt, the majority of experts place the territory on and surrounding the Horn of Africa. Consolidating this opinion, products depicted in Queen Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple were historically abundant in the Horn of Africa, but were less common or even absent from Arabia.
Although recognized as having territory on both the Arabian and Horn of Africa coasts, the goods obtained by the ancient Egyptians, including giraffes, baboons, hippopotami, and leopards, gold, ebony, and aromatic resins such as myrrh, were all primarily of African origin.
The detailed record of Queen Hatshepsut’s personal voyage to Punt in the 15th Century BC is recorded in beautiful and detailed hieroglyphics on her mortuary temple walls at Deir el-Bahari on the west bank of the Nile, opposite the city of Luxor, Egypt. In the ninth year of the 18th Dynasty, female Pharaoh Queen Hatshepsut readied a five-ship armada to visit Punt, to obtain Puntite incense, ebony, short-horned cattle, bitumen, copper, naptha, and goods from other African states including carved amulets, animal skins, ivory, and gold. The hieroglyphsstate that Queen Hatshepsut set sail with the blessing of the sun god:
Said by Amen, the Lord of the Thrones of the Two Lands: ‘Come, come in peace my daughter, the graceful, who art in my heart, King Maatkare [ie. Hatshepsut]…I will give thee Punt, the whole of it…I will lead your soldiers by land and by water, on mysterious shores, which join the harbours of incense…They will take incense as much as they like. They will load their ships to the satisfaction of their hearts with trees of green [ie. fresh] incense, and all the good things of the land.’
Reviving Djibouti’s Natural Resources
Today, still serving as the region’s primary maritime port for imports and exports, Djibouti is an internationally strategic refueling and transshipment center. IRENA points out in its new Renewables Readiness Assessment (RRA) report that the key to Djibouti’s renewal lies in the nation’s abundant natural resources. Renewable energy technologies are likely to play a major role in developing an integrated power pool as new hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar power plants are built in Djibouti.
Already in full-swing, IRENA’s Africa Clean Energy Corridor initiative facilitates Djibouti’s increased energy access. A number of transmission and upgrade projects have already been completed, such as the Kenya-Ethiopia and the Ethiopia-Djibouti lines. Making clear the way for a 5-year implementation of renewables, increased access to these lines offers an immediate opportunity to reduce Djibouti’s dependence on imported fuel, while buying time to scale up the utilization of national renewable energy systems.
Furthermore, IRENA recommends the government of Djibouti to actively explore ways to develop its own resources, with the aim of strategically positioning itself in the region and improving its energy security. “Ambition for energy investment in the region,” states the new RRA report, “is such that Djibouti can look beyond its regional role to become a transcontinental transmission hub for clean and low emission electricity.”
Restoring Djibouti as a Transcontinental Transmission Hub
“Djibouti is a gateway between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula,” notes IRENA in a tune reminiscent of Hatshepsut’s hieroglyphics. Its geographical location as the point closest to the Arabian shore of Yemen “creates significant strategic opportunities for the trade of goods and potentially energy.” Recent discussions have taken place between Yemen and Ethiopia concerning the potential Ethiopian export of 100 MW per year. IRENA’s 5-year plan for Djibouti recommends this new supply be transferred through a 26 km submarine transmission line along the Red Sea via Djibouti.
A significant economic development, Ethiopia would become the renewable energy hub of the region, while Djibouti would become its transcontinental transmission hub. “This brings a number of interesting opportunities to Djibouti,” states IRENA’s new RRA report:
● Firstly, it would open up a market for its own surplus power, and provides a major incentive to move ahead with its plans to develop its geothermal and wind energy potential.
● Secondly, Djibouti can place itself at the heart of the USD 22 billion project backed by the African Union to develop a pan-continental electricity highway by 2020.
● Thirdly, it would help relieve Djibouti anxiety about its own energy security as it becomes an important strategic player in the region, strengthening its negotiating hand.
● Finally, Djibouti can become a visible player in global decarbonisation efforts as clean energy from Africa helps emissions reduction and avoidance in the Arabian Peninsula.
Supplying 100% Clean Power to “The Land of God”
Using the IRENA plan for 100% clean, renewable power to restore the role of Djibouti as a point from which rays of power emanate in every direction, and through which riches and glory once again pass is a truly inspirational instance of recycling history. And, following the thinking of the ancient Egyptians, whose aboriginal homeland was Punt, “The Land of God,” is this not similar to the theological concept of Eden? An aboriginal homeland of God’s creation, from whence the human race set forth, multiplying and covering the Earth? And is not the entire Earth a common metaphor for “The Land of God”?
I must admit that supplying 100% renewable, clean power to the entire “Land of God” is a concept so cool it gives me the chills!