Renewable Energy

Powering rural communities with renewable energy in Ethiopia

Rocky Mountain Institute in Ethiopia
A man sits outside of the Doyole community barber shop in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia. The shop is open during the hours they receive electricity and some days that might be just two hours a day. Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Institute

Our new partnership with Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) will enable people living in rural Ethiopia to access renewable energy, and to earn a better income by using energy as effectively as possible.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), just 45% of Ethiopians have access to electricity, which means more than 50 million people lack access to energy.

The Ethiopian government has prioritised universal access to electricity. It aims to reach 100% electrification by 2025, with 35% of the population using off-grid energy solutions and the other 65% of the country connected to the grid.

Using energy productively

Rocky Mountain Institute Ethiopia
The RMI Ethiopia team conducting a rural community visit to study the local businesses’ electricity needs. Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Institute

However, energy access is not enough by itself to improve incomes. People need access to finance, markets and energy efficient appliances, and to know how to use energy productively.

Our grant will enable RMI to focus on drastically increasing the efficacy of Ethiopia’s rural electrification programme by stimulating the local economy in communities. RMI will work with five rural communities to make sure energy choices are sustainable, affordable and focus on productive uses of power to increase people’s yields and incomes. Their work will also inform Ethiopian’s national strategy for off-grid communities.

A recent study by RMI identified six agricultural production and processing opportunities for rural communities: horticulture irrigation, grain milling, injera baking, milk cooling, bread baking and coffee washing. Collectively, these areas have the potential to produce US$4 billion in annual value.

Building local resilience

Francis Elisha, RMI Africa principal, says: “Over the past few years, we’ve seen the incredible opportunities that distributed energy resources, like decentralised mini-grids, bring to rural communities. They not only electrify communities but also build local resilience and bolster economic growth.”

Shambhavi Sharma, programme manager in the renewable energy team at the IKEA Foundation, says: “We want to bring the renewable-energy sector together to articulate sustainable-energy solutions that put people living in poverty at the heart of their work. Our partnership with RMI will tackle the biggest challenges in the renewable energy sector in Ethiopia, helping people afford a better life while protecting the planet.”

About Rocky Mountain Institute

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)—an independent nonprofit founded in 1982—transforms global energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future. It engages businesses, communities, institutions, and entrepreneurs to accelerate the adoption of market-based solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; the San Francisco Bay Area; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing. More information on RMI can be found at