GERD’s power generation: A path for boosting energy sector, regional integration

Ethiopia has begun producing electricity for the first time from its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) – a massive hydropower plant on the River Nile.

Many officials and scholars agreed that the newly generated electricity from the GERD could help revive the economy that has been impacted by the combined challenges of a deadly war, drought, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

While officially inaugurating electricity production on last Sunday from the mega-dam which is constructed by billions of Dollar, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that Ethiopia’s main interest is to bring light to 60 percent of the population who are suffering from darkness.

“As you can see, the water will generate energy and back to the river bank and flows to Sudan and Egypt, unlike the rumors saying that the Ethiopian people and government are damming the water to starve Egypt and Sudan.”

While addressing the parliament during the 3rd Ordinary Session of the House of People’s Representatives this week, the Premier stated that Ethiopia want to collaborate with Egypt and Sudan. “As promised, we are generating energy and releasing regulated water volume both in the rainy and dry seasons with minimum sedimentation. We continue to utilize the resource fairly and equitably”.

“Ethiopia is abided by the Comprehensive Framework Agreement (CFA) with all riparian countries. Therefore, for their own benefit, lower riparian countries must respect the accord,” he mentioned.

According to the renowned Economist and Global Chairman of Fairfax Africa Zemedeneh Nigatu, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is not an irrigation dam it is rather an electric power dam, adding that, the water is still flowing to the lower riparian countries.

In his stay with CNBC Africa, Zemedeneh emphasized that the water pours on to the turbines and comes back to the bank to flow to the lower riparian countries. Therefore, the two countries should develop positive attitude towards the GERD.

He further said that power generation in the GERD is not only a victory for Ethiopia, rather, for the East Africa, the Horn of Africa and for the African continent at large. When the dam begins its full operation it will generate 5,500 MW which actually double the power generating capacity of Ethiopia which currently is 4,100 MW.

As mentioned above currently 60 percent of the population of Ethiopia is living in dark and the full operation supports rural electrification. According to the estimation the total cost of the dam will reach to Five billion USD in its completion. Following the announcement of the breaking news of the starting of generating 375 megawatts of electricity from one of its turbines on last Sunday, economists suggested that Ethiopia will boom its economy and strengthen the regional integration.

Mola Alemayehu, researcher and lecturer at the Department of Economy in Haramaya University told The Ethiopian Press Agency (EPA) that the surplus electricity produced by the GERD will be a reliable source of income for Ethiopia and plays pivotal role in alleviating poverty.

Noting that the dam is capable of generating up to 5,500 megawatts of electricity and will help to spur further economic development and allow it to export energy to neighboring countries.

Important issue that should be crystal clear to the people of Sudan and Egypt and the whole world as well is that, Ethiopia is one of the most energy starved country in the world in which its rural population is coerced to live in darkness.

Apart from supporting rural electrification the dam will provide much needed electricity for industrial development.

When the dam operates in its full capacity eases power interruption, reduces the importation of carbon based energy such as gasoline and strengthen the utilization of renewable energy supportive the nation aspiration to meet the target to develop carbon neutral economy.

As it is known almost 80 percent of the population residing in the rural part of the country is heavily depend on biomass energy for its house hold energy consumption. To meet the wood fuel demand the rural women are forced to clear forests which aggravate deforestation. The absence of vegetation cover due to clearance poses soil erosion which has a debilitating effect on land and the ecosystem at large. Soil erosion also aggravates the sedimentation of hydropower dams which shorten their life span.

It should be understood that, after the completion of the water filling of the GERD billions of tons of soil which is taken away by flood, might enter to the dam hence to protect the dam from such dangerous situation, the ongoing afforestation of the Abay river basin in the areas of Wollo, Gonder, Shewa ,Gojam and Beneshangul Gumuz should be strengthened.

The government aspires the expansion of manufacturing, so that to play the leading role in the economy. To that end it is expanding the construction of industry parks. The sector is expected to play crucial role in creating employment, import substitution, link the agriculture sector with the industry and boost export. The expansion of industry enhances the demand for energy hence, when the current power supply increases industries also will operate in their full capacity and such a situation further attract foreign investment gearing towards economic development.

GERD-induced economic growth of Ethiopia is anchored mainly on the tremendous improvements in energy supply which in turn increases efficiency, capacity utilization, and productivity for the energy–constrained economy.

The enhancement of the power generation of the country in addition to exporting energy, it enables to create economic integration in the horn and in the near future, the government plans to export power to neighboring nations, including Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan.

Since 1950s the previous regimes attempted to realize the construction of the hydropower dam in the Abay River but due to the unwillingness of the multilateral financial institutions due to the pressure by Egypt, unable to obtain the necessary finance as the result, the project was postponed for the current generation.

11 years ago, the government started the construction of the GERD by mobilizing finance from domestic sources now the dam is nearing its completion. Such achievement brought national pride to the country and rise self-confidence.

The GERD is the largest dam in Africa with the capacity of generating more than 5500 megawatt and the completion of the dam will change the nation image. Till now the west portrays Ethiopia as a nation characterized by poverty and famine. Now Ethiopians by consolidating their inner capacity showed their resoluteness to eradicate poverty by achieving economic growth through exploiting its natural resource.

Sources from the Ministry of Water and Energy indicates that, the completion of the GERD will be realized within two years. When the nation begins exporting hydropower to the neighboring countries annually it obtains more than 1 billion Dollars. Such amount of money eases shortage of currency boost the nation currency earning capacity and reserve.

Ethiopia is not only has hydropower energy source but also has wind, solar, geothermal and bio energy. When time and capacity allow the nation could exploit the resources and boost its economy. Ethiopians can draw lesson from the completion of the GERD. The galvanization of citizens money, time, labor which realized the dam should be repeated on eradication of poverty and once again Ethiopia will be great.



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