Transitioning to Sustainable Energy Uses in the Agro-Industry in China, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka
Transitioning to Sustainable Energy Uses in the Agro-Industry in China, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka
Addressing challenges related to access to energy and sustainable resources consumption through South-South cooperation


In Ethiopia, limited access to modern energy sources is a barrier to socioeconomic development, and a centralized renewable energy model is lacking. Between 2016 and 2019, only 43-48 per cent of the population had electricity coverage (approximately 33 per cent through on-grid electrification and 11 per cent through off-grid service provision)1. While around 93 per cent of urban households were connected to the grid2, only 36 per cent of rural households had access to electricity in 20193. Most new initiatives on renewable energy development have targeted off-grid and household electricity uses. However, public institutions and productive energy uses may require different technology answers.  

Towards a Solution

UNDP Ethiopia is supporting the Government of Ethiopia to implement a Trilateral Cooperation project bringing together China and Sri Lanka to promote Biogas, Biomass, and Solar technologies for productive uses. This project is piloting an integrated and innovative Trilateral Cooperation scheme through co-financing, joint design, and collaborative implementation at both the management and technical level — involving three southern countries – China, Ethiopia, and Sri Lanka.  

The project derives from the need to disseminate renewable energy technology and to scale up for climate-resilient growth. It supports access to energy and sustainable resource consumption through trials and demonstrations of biogas and solar energy for productive uses. The cooperation serves as a learning platform for China, Ethiopia, and Sri Lanka to engage and collaborate at the international level on renewable energy technology and skill transfers. The project contributes to SDGs 7, 13, and 17, as well as to Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) Priority Areas 1, 6 and 7. It is aligned with national priorities, supporting Ethiopia’s National Electrification Programme which targets 65 percent of its population with on-grid electrification and 35 per cent of off-grid access by 2025, and Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy vision by introducing and scaling up relevant technologies. 

The project is co-funded by the Ministry of Commerce of China, the Ministry of Water and Energy of Ethiopia, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is jointly implemented by the Ministry of Water and Energy of Ethiopia, the Ministry of Science and Technology of China - the Administrative Centre for China’s Agenda 21 (MOST-ACCA 21), China Agricultural University (CAU), as well as UNDP country offices in China and Ethiopia.  

The project has achieved two key outcomes: 1) capacity for the transfer of renewable energy technology, built through the demonstration of biogas and solar systems for productive uses (including in hospitals, universities, condominiums, and industrial zones); and 2) South-South knowledge and experience exchange.  

The five aspects and approaches below ensure the successful outcomes, sustainability, and replicability of the project.  

The first key aspect is national implementation.  Ethiopian government institutions directly execute the project, which ensures local ownership and buy-in, and mutual learning among the involved countries. 

Stakeholder coordination is also considered fundamental, including the establishment of linkages, mutual understanding and deep collaboration among research institutes, private sector entities and government counterparts, through UNDP’s facilitation of study visits and matchmaking between enterprises and establishing online and offline communication platforms. 

A third aspect which contributes to the successful implementation of the project, is a multi-layer coordination and management mechanism – involving UNDP, governments, experts, and local counterparts – was established, to ensure accountability for quality deliverables and to streamline communications on both horizontal and vertical levels. This strengthened cross-country mechanism can be replicated and adapted to other similar initiatives. 

Fourth, the project employs UNDP’s five-step methodology for effective capacity-development: 1) engage stakeholders on capacity development; 2) assess capacity and needs; 3) formulate a capacity-development response; 4) implement the response; and 5) evaluate capacity development. 

Lastly, public institutions selected as beneficiaries are tasked with demonstrating the multiple benefits of the interventions, which has attracted more private entities to install photovoltaic and/or biogas systems, contributing to the acceptability and sustainability of the initiative. The knowledge and skills acquired through the project contribute to enhanced personnel capacities to facilitate timely maintenance for the installed systems and to further expand those systems across the country. Furthermore, the Joint Research and Extension Centre (JREC) that will be established in collaboration with Chinese partners will cater to capacity-building needs and provide continuous technical support when and where required, including through the adoption of a long-term research agenda. 

The outbreak and spread of COVID-19 has constrained cross-country travel and physical meetings and training programmes. Mitigation measures were jointly explored to better conduct activities in Ethiopia, including the development of joint action plans taking account of COVID-19 constraints, strengthened communication and coordination through multiple virtual channels and leveraging Chinese expertise, technologies and networks with local partners. 

Contact Information

Ms. Wubua Mekonnen, Team Leader, Climate Resilient and Environmental Sustainability Unit, UNDP Ethiopia

Countries involved

China, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka

Supported by

Ministry of Commerce of China, Government of Ethiopia, Government of Sri Lanka, UNDP

Implementing Entities

UNDP in China, Ethiopia, and Sri Lanka; Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water and Energy; Sri Lanka State Energy Authority (SLSEA); China’s Ministry of Science and Technology - Administrative Centre for China’s Agenda 21 (MOST-ACCA 21); China Agricultural University (CAU)

Project Status


Project Period

2019 - 2022

URL of the practice

Primary SDG

07 - Affordable and Clean Energy

Secondary SDGs

07 - Affordable and Clean Energy, 13 - Climate Action, 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

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