New power plant opens in Massawa

A new power plant which will greatly increase the electrical capacity of Eritrea has opened near the Red Sea port of Massawa.

The Hirgigo Power Plant will provide electricity to five of the country's largest cities, including Asmara, Massawa, and Keren. With its official launch, the plant becomes the largest in the country, increasing the nation's electrical capacity more than threefold.

"The main aim of this power plant is to supply a reliable energy source without interruption to both private industries and individual households," Abraham Woldemichael, general manager of the Eritrea Electric Authority, told IRIN.

The plant is also an important step forward in the country's continued attempts to rehabilitate an electrical distribution system left in disarray due to the 30-year war for independence.

Officials at the Eritrea Electric Authority estimate that approximately 20 percent of Eritrea's population has consistent access to electricity. President Isayas Afewerki's government says it has long term plans to privatise the electrical sector, but that, as it stands, the electrical network is simply not marketable at the moment.

Abraham said the World Bank has expressed interest in assisting the country in its efforts to electrify rural areas and upgrade distribution facilities in Asmara and other major cities.

"There is an intensive electrification programme going on at the moment," he noted.