A shining new example for Eritrea

26 Sep 2013

Over the last two years, power outages in Eritrea have made it very difficult for United Nations office in the capital Asmara to function continuously and securely. While stand-alone generators occasionally filled the gaps, diesel rations and shortages have made it necessary to find a more sustainable solution.

“Many of our officers had to find a way of working when there was no power. This sometimes meant that they had to stay late into the night or they would come to work during the weekend to take advantage of the grid power supply,” said Araia Kidane, the UN common services Manager for Eritrea.

Because of the unpredictable power supply, the UN’s satellite connection, 24/7 radio room operations and sometimes even the mobile telecommunications system would go silent.

Realizing the seriousness of the issue, the UN began to consider sourcing the country’s abundant solar energy to power the office. In the process, the UN in Eritrea would take a giant step forward in greening its operation.

In 2013, 104 solar modules were installed on the roof of the building, producing a total of 15.5 kilowatts of electricity: enough to power the office for eight continuous hours a day.

“The installation of this solar system will not only assist us improve our efficiency and cut on costs but also allow us to have zero CO2 emissions, which is beneficial to the environment”, said Christine N. Umutoni, the UN Resident Coordinator in Eritrea.

The UN complex hosts UNDP, UNFPA, UNAIDS, UNOCHA, UNDSS and the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office. The design of the solar system now fulfills power requirements for 50 members of staff working on the premises. 

All 50 employees are now required to work with laptops, which are more efficient as compared with desktop computers. For printing, photocopying and scanning, small-sized, low-power consumers are connected to the solar system. The office is now working to install LED lights which are compatible with the new solar system.

“This has opened the eyes of the Government. They are now [starting to] power their streets through solar energy,” said Christine Mutuni.
It will take close to two years for the office to recover the initial cost of solar energy.