By Okot Njoroge, in Nairobi
Ethiopia has commenced electricity generation from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
GERD is Africa’s largest hydropower project, with 6,000MW capacity, more than double Ethiopia’s current generating capacity, and will rank among the world’s 10 biggest hydropower plants.
The plant, sited on the Blue Nile River in the Benishangul-Gumuzregion of western Ethiopia, started generating 375 megawatts of electricity from one of its turbines on February 20, 2022.
Estimated to cost anything from $4Billion to $6.4Billion at full completion, it is largely financed by government bonds.
Ethiopia’s first phase filling of the dam was in July 2020, during which 4.9Billion cubic metres of water was collected. The second phase, in 2021, raised the volume to 18.4Billion cubic metres of water. The 74Billion cubic metre-capacity dam is expected to take five to seven years to fill.
An influential, strident critic of the project is Egypt, which considers GERD as a significant threat to its water supply. Egypt lies downstream of the Nile and has called on international organizations, including the United Nations, to stop Ethiopia from filling the dam while the three countries most affected: Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, agree on how to fill it. Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah El Sisi, has frequently declared that his country’s national security is a red line and stressed the need to reach a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam.