In recognition of her great work advancing power generation in Ethiopia, on Dec. 5 at POWER-GEN International, Azeb Asnake, chief executive officer of Ethiopian Electric Power, was named the 2017 Power Generation Woman of the Year.
Asnake is a civil engineer by training and is responsible for the construction and operation of generation plants, transmission lines and substations, as well as overseeing the sale of electricity to neighboring Sudan, Djibouti and border towns of Kenya. When she first entered the industry, Ethiopia’s electric energy was mainly hydro based and the generation capacity was 2,430 MW. Since then, generation has grown to 4,500 MW.
Asnake was project manager for the 1,870-MW Gilgel Gibe III project on the Omo River, which began operating in October 2015. Prior to that, the largest hydro project developed in the country was about 400 MW, and all had been managed by men. She took on the challenge of building this daunting project in a remote and undeveloped area of the country, and succeeded.
She has been CEO of the company for four years. One goal of Ethiopian Electric Power under her guidance is to become a power hub of Africa and reach a generation capacity of 17,000 MW by 2020 to create a system that will carry and sustain the economy level of a middle-income country.
To this end, the company is developing the 6,000-MW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project on the Blue Nile River. Despite some controversy, the project is proceeding as planned.
In Ethiopia, most economic sectors are led by men. A woman leading in an engineering discipline is almost never found. Indeed, Asnake explained in her personal statement that while she was in school her professors and peers discouraged her from entering engineering.
Today, as CEO of a key aspect of Ethiopia’s economic sectors — power generation — Asnake is demonstrating not only that women can lead in engineering, but also that they can do so with great success. Electric power is growing exponentially in Ethiopia as the country seeks to expand electricity access to as many of its citizens as possible.
Asnake gave a speech at the Women in Power Luncheon at POWER-GEN and participated in a panel discussion with the other Woman of the Year Finalists: Pamela Rauch, vice president, external affairs and economic development, Florida Power and Light and Caroline Winn, chief operating officer, SDG&E.
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