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forage, géothermie, Djibouti, énergie
And what if Djibouti’s energy future was to be found in its subsoil? The country is banking on its wealth of geothermal resources to reduce its dependence on electricity from its Ethiopian neighbor. It has just launched major drilling tests in the Assal rift area, which are being cofinanced by AFD.

Djibouti wants to go green. The country is highly dependent on Ethiopia, which provides 80% of its electricity needs, and wants to secure its energy resources. This is especially because the surplus exported by Ethiopia regularly decreases, mainly due to the other power provision agreements concluded by the country. This electricity is expensive for the population of Djibouti and access to it is not always reliable (frequent outages), which hampers the development of industrial and private sectors. 

2020 objective: 100% clean energy

The ambitious objective of this republic in the Horn of Africa: produce more and better. Djibouti has thereby set out to produce 100% renewable energy by 2020. To achieve this objective, in addition to wind and solar energy, the focus is Djibouti’s subsoil assets. Djibouti is located at the point where three major rifts meet – the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and East African Rift – at the tip of the tectonic plates and is a volcanic area where there are a large number of vents, fumaroles and hot springs. This energy stored underground, in particular around the Abbe and Assal lakes, holds a renewable potential which is not yet sufficiently exploited. 

Following twenty years of attempts which have not really produced results, the Government of Djibouti is more than ever determined to enter fully into the geothermal era. The country is supported by the international community and is investing in and launching new exploration and drilling campaigns.

Exploiting subsoil heat

One of the campaigns is a promising but technically difficult project: the exploration conducted in the Fialé caldera, in the Lake Assal region in the center of the country. The drilling operations were launched on 11 July 2018. These tests will assess the geothermal capacity of the site, by drilling three directional boreholes at a depth of 2,500 m in a reservoir of fractured volcanic rocks where the water temperature is estimated at 300 °C. This will make it possible to determine the commercial viability of these resources, with the aim of installing the first geothermal power plant by 2020. 

The project is being led by Electricity of Djibouti (EDD) and is cofinanced by AFD, the World Bank, African Development Bank and a number of other partners (OFID, GEF, ESMAP and the Government of Djibouti). Following the exploration, the feasibility study based on the drilling tests and the bidding documents for the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) should allow the Republic of Djibouti to launch the construction of the power plant. With a capacity of 50 to 100 MW and 100% ecological, it will contribute to reducing the cost of electricity (cost lower than the alternative thermal units and solar and wind energy) and improving the reliability of the service. This project marks AFD’s return to the energy sector in Djibouti. It will result in better access to electricity for the population and provide a unique asset to boost the country’s economic development.