Not only will the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) be a model for solving the renewable energy demand of Ethiopia but it is also of instrumental in illuminating the Horn of Africa.
Taking the entiresocial, economic and political challenges following lack of access to electricity into account, various attempts have been made by all successive governments of Ethiopia to build a hydroelectric power dams. Of these, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is worth mentioning.
The covertly and overtly thrown influences of foreign powers, the thin and thick hurdles, lack of significant finance, absence of cooperation from downstream countries, and so on have long been great challenges for Ethiopia as all these elements have hindered the nation from constructing the dam. Despite these, challenges, GERD, as of February 20, 2022, has begun generating 357 MW hydroelectric power.
Apart from solving problems associated with access to electricity, the dam has taught various lessons for Africans: self-reliance, protecting sovereignty, generating internal finance, effective use of natural resources, ensuring the right to development, and so on. This will help the continent to solve problems related to power generation, which is a cardinal challenge to Africa.
According to WB 2021 report, globally, the number of people without access to electricity declined from 1.2 billion in 2010 to 759 million in 2019, but it is still a challenge to Africa. African Union 2022 report also confirms that over 600 million people did not have electricity connections while in 2020 electrical energy was inaccessible to 581 million Africans. Besides, around five out of every 10 individuals below the Sahara lived in the dark. In rural areas, the situation was even worse and more than 70 percent of the population lacked access to electricity.
However, the continent has abundant hydro, solar, wind, and bioenergy resources, but the electricity sector in Africa faces huge challenges: low generation capacity and efficiency, high costs, unreliable energy supplies, and low access rates.
The lack of reliable energy poses a challenge for every sector in Africa. AU Infrastructure and Energy CommissionCommissioner AmaniAbou-zadi (Ph.D.) said over half a billion Africans still lack access to electricity and some other 900 million are without clean cooking.
Principally, the challenge of reliable energy has been revealed during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, only 25 percent of health centers in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to reliable sources of energy which is a very serious challenge and needs various interventions. Especially, encouraging the production of renewable energy is timely, she noted.
Cognizant of the significance of clean, renewable, and affordable energy production, Ethiopia has gone far in constructing dams and generating hydroelectric power. GERD is the best example along this line.
According to GERD Management Board Chairman Abraham Belay (Ph.D.), the dam will significantly contribute to meeting the growing energy demand of the country, which is growing at an annual rate of 13 percent.
“The Dam will benefit all African brothers and sisters. Ethiopia does not want to harm anyone. The country’s goal is to use the power for its large population that has never seen electricity and alleviate poverty. The beginning of Africa’s largest power plant turbine generating power is good news for our continent as well as the downstream countries with whom we aspire to work together,”AbiyAhmed (PhD) underlined.
It is obvious that access to electricity is a challenge for the continent; hence, it is imperative to provide financial, technical, moral support for Ethiopia to construct more and more dams as GERD is a model for solving the renewable energy demand of not only Ethiopia but also that of Africa
Ethiopia’s desire concerning the dam is not just to produce and use the energy and benefit neighboring countries, but also to export power to Europe to reduce carbon emission that affects environment, the premier explained. Accordingly, the premier requested the Western world and those who have the finance to cooperate with Ethiopia in building new projects by changing the existing water politics and entertaining mutual benefit.
Africa including Ethiopia is indeed endowed withabundant resources. Hence, it is possible to reduce carbon emissions by constructing dams like GERD since the continent has high rainfall and many rivers that enable it to build many dams.
BY EPHREM ANDARAGCHEW
23 FEBRUARY 2022