Power Profile: Yonas Ayele

Yonas Ayele, NRECA International chief engineer, Ethiopia

For Yonas Ayele, NRECA International’s chief engineer in Ethiopia, the favorite part of his job is analyzing terabytes of data to determine the best way to expand electricity access in his country.

“Electricity is the life blood for all human beings,” said Yonas. “Without it, there cannot be development for any nation. And in my job, I am contributing my share to the development of Ethiopia.”

Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, but more than 30 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty. NRECA International is working with the Government of Ethiopia to determine the most cost efficient and practical way to increase access to electricity in these areas to boost economic growth.

Yonas grew up in Fitche, 75 miles north of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. Growing up, there was electricity in his home town for 12 hours each night, and it was only in the late 1980s that his family had 24 hour service.

“The electricity was used mostly for lighting,” Yonas explained. “The use of electricity for cooking was not well known back in those days.”

Today, he is the chief engineer for NRECA International’s Distribution Systems Strengthening Project which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. He leads and manages the data collection effort that will be the backbone for a new geospatial and engineering platform his team will use for electrification planning.

To collect the data, a team of enumerators surveys all the medium voltage feeders in the Ethiopian Electric Utility’s distribution system, and another team of geospatial specialists use satellite imagery to create a geodatabase of structures, roads, rivers, terrain characteristics, political boundaries and population data throughout Ethiopia. All this data will be gathered and aggregated into this geospatial platform for analyses.

Back in the office in Addis, Yonas and his team will analyze the data and produce different scenarios to determine the lowest cost and most technically appropriate form of electrification for all of Ethiopia.

Yonas graduated from the Addis Ababa University with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and physics. He also received his Master’s degree in business administration from the International Leadership Institute in Addis Ababa. Today he aspires to be a leader in grid and off-grid expansion planning.

“What makes a difference in people’s lives is hard work and opportunity,” said Yonas. “My job here has taught me the latest tools and techniques for data collection and analyses, and I am looking forward to many more opportunities.”

Key to the success for NRECA International projects is the continuity and sustainability of newly developed electrification programs.

Nick Allen, NRECA International country director for Ethiopia and Yonas Ayele

“It is important to mentor our local team, and Yonas is a great example at how this model works,” said Nick Allen, NRECA International Ethiopia country director. “When our job is done, he will be the leader and teacher who will share knowledge and continue the work we started.”

“The very fact that my job is about electricity is exciting, and the work has inspired me,” said Yonas. “We will be able to bring a great difference to the Ethiopian electrification program.”

Click here to learn about our work in Ethiopia.