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Djibouti City: Around 75% of the country's population lives in the city of Djibouti


Plans are taking shape to improve the provision of basic utilities in Djibouti, with renewables set to play a leading role.

A major investment drive, which includes construction of a 45,000-cu-metre desalination and renewable energy plant in the capital city of Djibouti, forms part of the government’s bid to foster better self-sufficiency in terms of basic resources like power and water.

Desalination solution

The new desalination plant, referred to as the Project for Producing Safe Drinking Water with Renewable Energy (Production d’Eau Potable par Dessalement et Energie Renouvelable, PEPER), will cost around €46m, according to the National Office for Water and Sanitation of Djibouti (Office National de l’Eau et de l’Assainissement de Djibouti, ONEAD).

The new facility is expected to additional than double water supply in the capital once fully operational, with initial capacity of 22,500 cu metres per day, scalable up to 45,000 cu metres per day, as per ONEAD figures, though the desalination technology that will be used at the plant has from presently on to be announced.

According to the EU, the plant will provide water to 200,000 people – or one-fourth of the country’s people ­– with a focus on the inhabitants of Balbala, a suburb to the south of the city.

The EU has committed to providing the bulk of the financing for the project – some €40.5m worth of grants were pledged by the European Development Fund in late 2012 – while Djibouti is charged with financing the remaining €5.5m of the project.

Powering desalination plants requires immense amounts of energy, so the project will as well include associated generating facilities. Given that Djibouti is by presently an energy importer, to better manage costs and improve sustainability, the plant’s power generation will be renewable: a 20-MW wind farm will comprise the second phase of the project.

Water scarcity

Recurring droughts, coupled with a recent acceleration in people increase, fuelled in part by an influx of migrants from elsewhere in the Horn of Africa, have highlighted the need for Djibouti to expand access to basic services like water.

Much of the country’s terrain is arid desert, with the city of Djibouti ranking as one of the hottest and driest capitals in the world. According to a study by the EU and the World Bank, the drought of 2008-11 cost the Djibouti economy some €22m per time– equivalent to around 25% of its GDP at the time – and damaged the capital city’s aquifer.

With a request deficit of around 80,000 cu metres, additional than double the current supply, Djibouti remains focused on improving both the quantity and quality of water available.

Around 75% of the country's people lives in the city of Djibouti, which is served by an intermittent water supply at best. Request for water in the capital is expected to double over the next 20 years, according to the EU, putting added pressure on the existing supply network.

Targeting renewables

While improving water security for some of the majority vulnerable populations in the city of Djibouti is Project PEPER’s central goal, the construction of a wind farm to power the plant as well ties into the government’s broader plans to reform the energy sector.

According to estimates from the EU, desalinating enough water to cover the current deficit would prompt a 25% increase in electricity request, which by presently presents a formidable challenge for the country.

Costly and unreliable electricity presents a major cost for local businesses, according to the World Bank, with power bills accounting for around 25% of average business expenses. The country’s electricity rates are currently double the African average, as per data from the African Development Bank, at $0.28 per KWh.

To help address current shortages, Djibouti is working to shift its energy mix from thermal to renewable. As part of its Vision 2035, the long-term economic development plan launched last year, Djibouti aims to boost renewable energy’s share of domestic consumption to 100% by 2020.

Foreign investors are by presently taking part in renewable energy projects, according to the Ministry of Energy, inclunding firms like Qatar Electric and Spain’s Fotowatio Renewable Ventures. In early October the government signed an agreement with Canada’s SkyPower to develop 200 MW of solar photovoltaic capacity. Set to be built in phases over a four-year period, the project will cost around $440m.

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