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Ethiopia’s GERD to begin producing electricity next year

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Two of the dam’s turbines will begin generating power within 18 months, says Ethiopia’s foreign ministry

A picture taken on May 28, 2013 shows the Blue Nile River in Guba, Ethiopia, during its diversion ceremony  (AFP/File, William Lloyd-George)

A picture taken on May 28, 2013 shows the Blue Nile River in Guba, Ethiopia, during its diversion ceremony
(AFP/File, William Lloyd-George)

Ethiopia’s controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be able to generate electricity in 2015, according to the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry.

The GERD will start generating electricity within 18 months, according to a statement issued by the Ethiopian foreign ministry on Friday. The entire project will cost ETB 75.5bn (approximately $3.9bn), added the statement. Two of the dam’s sixteen turbines will begin generating 375MW of power each by 2015, according to the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Deputy Director General of the GERD National Coordination Office Zadig Abraha said the construction project represents “the golden age of [Ethiopia’s] history as far as economic development and public participation is concerned,” adding that excess electricity generated by the dam could be sold to reduce the country’s trade deficit. The deputy director general estimated that Ethiopia could earn up to $2bn a year from the export of electricity to countries including Sudan, Djibouti, and possibly South Sudan and Yemen.

Last week the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was seeking a “win-win” scenario with Ethiopia and Sudan that would protect Ethiopia’s developmental needs, Sudan’s interests, and Egypt’s water security.

The Egyptian ministry added that Ethiopia’s continuing of the construction process at the dam site “violates all the well-known international legal principles regarding projects and/or constructions on international rivers.”

Tripartite talks between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia were held in November, December, and January but no agreement was reached. The talks focused on the formation of a committee to implement recommendations put forth by a report detailing confidence-building measures concerning the dam and its effect on downstream nations.

The latest talks concluded in February and ended after it failed to resolve the sticking points of the debate between the two countries.

Despite a lack of progress in the talks, Ethiopia’s ambassador to Egypt Mahamoud Dirir said he doubted the need for mediation between Egypt and Ethiopia on the GERD issue. “There are two, and only two, countries in the entire world which are well-placed to mediate between Egypt and Ethiopia; and these are, of course, Ethiopia and Egypt themselves,” said the ambassador.

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