31 March 2017

Ethiopia: GERD Is Indispensable to Ethiopia's Energy Ambition

Photo: Ethiopian Herald
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam under construction (file photo).

Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE) on Mach 17, 2016 stated that the amount of money contributed by the public to the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has reached close to 10 billion birr. DBE Bond Management Director, Firew Kassa said the fund was collected from sale of bond, GERD lottery and trophy, Diaspora's contribution and 8100 public game, among others.

He said public servants and private employees have taken the leading position in materializing the donation they have pledged and purchasing bonds. Similarly, the Diaspora, private investors, merchants and all citizens across the country have played their own role in contributing financial support to the GERD.

As to Firew, this initiative has been contributing to the development of saving culture in urban and rural areas. Micro finance institutions and embassies in foreign countries have played significant role in raising fund for GERD.

Meanwhile, in relation to the 6th anniversary of GERD, Coordination Office Chairman, Dr. Debretsiyon Gebremichael told journalists that power generation capacity of the dam has been boosted to 6,450MW, following capacity enhancement of generators. Nearly 56 percent of the project has so far been completed, according to him. This has enabled to augment the electricity generation capacity of the Dam by 1,200 MW, which is equivalent to the power being generated from Tekeze, Beles and Gibe-II power plants.

Laborious activities, including construction of power receiver and transmission stations, installation of power transmission lines and two turbines that generate 375MW each, have been carried out to finalize tasks which would enable the Dam generate the 750MW as per schedule, he said.

The construction of 400 and 500KV power transmission lines traversing from GERD all the way to Beles project and Addis Ababa on grid reservoir has also been completed. According to Debretsiyon, the nation is preparing to celebrate the 6th anniversary of the commencement of the construction of the Dam with various events and it planned to use the occasion to mobilize resources and accelerate construction of the Project. Accordingly, it has been planned to collect 1.8 billion birr from the fund raising programmes which will be carried out in connection with the 6th anniversary.

The 6-km road race was staged on March 5, 2017, under the motto "We Run for GERD". The race aimed at raising fund to support construction of GERD. The occasion attracted over 650 thousand Ethiopians across the country.

According to Debretsiyon, Ethiopians have continued their support to the construction of the Dam through environmental conservation activities and the purchase of Dam bonds. Majority of members of the Diaspora are also supporting GERD as much as they could. In fact, GERD is progressing very well. To this end, all citizens are providing unreserved support. Indisputably, the nation will keep on its unreserved effort to finalize the GERD.

Similarly, Government Communication Affairs Office State Minister Zadig Abreha lately stated that Ethiopian defence forces have taken punitive measure on 20 Behinen militiamen who were hell bent on attacking GERD.

He said the defence forces have annihilated 13 militiamen that infiltrated from Eritrea, while seven had managed to flee to Sudan. However, Sudan had extradited the fugitives to Ethiopia. Currently, the extradited militia men are under the custody of Ethiopia.

According to Zadig, the attack was organized by Shabia and anti-Ethiopian elements that settled in Eritrea. He stressed that the GERD is under reliable protection by people who are committed to stand sentinel to protect the sovereignty of their country.

GERD has reached its current status defying all external sabotages intended to halt it. For instance, al-monitor of Egypt had earlier reported that Egypt wants to halt the GERD. It stated, 'the campaign initiated by Egypt was on two fronts': the first is explicit and involves the meetings of Egypt's Ministers of Water and Foreign Relations with their counterparts of countries which have influence in the Nile Basin, and the other is unofficial and involves Egypt's ambassadors in these countries. With these, they aim to persuade the international community that the construction of the dam would lead to conflict and instability in the region and hence to reject its construction.

Similarly, Economist had reported last January that When Egyptian politicians discussed sabotaging the GERD in 2013, they naturally assumed it was a private meeting. But amid all the scheming, and with a big chuckle, Muhammad Morsi, then president, informed his colleagues that their discussion was being broadcast live on a state-owned television channel. It was already no secret that Egypt wanted to stop the largest hydroelectric project in Africa.

However, according to the Economist, the Egyptian government has adopted a more conciliatory tone only recently. In March of last year, Egypt's president Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, joined Hailemariam Dessalegn, Ethiopia's Prime Minister, and Omar al-Bashir, Sudan's President, to sign a declaration that tacitly blesses construction of the Dam so long as there is no significant harm to downstream countries. The agreement was affirmed in December, when the three countries settled on two French firms to study the Dam's potential impact.

Ethiopia insists that it will produce only power and that the water pushing its turbines (less some evaporation during storage) will ultimately come out the other side. But Egypt fears it will also be used for irrigation, cutting downstream supply. But experts are sceptical. "It makes no technological or economic sense [for Ethiopia] to irrigate land with that water," as it would involve pumping it back upstream, told Kenneth Strzepek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to the Economist.

The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development stated that Ethiopia's electric energy demand is growing by over 20 per cent per year and it is difficult, and almost impossible, for Ethiopia to meet this huge demand without pursuing economic growth and industrial development using untapped renewable water resources. Therefore, development of renewable energy sources is predominant objective and exigent task of Ethiopia to satisfy its insatiable and ever-growing energy demand.

Hence, GERD is at the centre of Ethiopia's development strategy. It will provide cheap and abundant electricity to the booming manufacturing sector of the country and sustain its well-oiled economic progress: Ethiopia has formulated green development economy founded on utilization of renewable energy resources such as hydro power.

Some sources indicated that once it is put into service, GERD will increase the amount of electricity produced in the country by 270 percent and bolster Ethiopia's role as an energy exporter to neighbouring countries.

Currently, successful engineering prowess has topped off GERD with additional 450 MW. It is part of the national struggle to rotate turbines and utilize GERD only for the purpose of generating power. Ethiopia has formulated outstanding strategic plans to develop green economy and transform its economy through production of electricity from renewable sources.

In General, Ethiopia has planned to boost its electricity production from close to 5,000 MW at present to 17,000MW at the end of GTP II. It will move heaven and earth to accomplish the its mission of poverty eradication through massive electrification programme. And as an emblem of poverty alleviation endeavour, the construction of GERD will unflappably continue until the finalization despite all the resistance by anti-Ethiopian elements.

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