Ethiopia GERD to produce electricity in few months

The Ministry of Water and Irrigation of Ethiopia says the controversial Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam GERD (GERD) is set to commence electricity production after a few months.

This is indicated on Monday when the country celebrated the completion of second round water filling of GERD. Engineer Seleshi Bekele, Minister of Ethiopia’s Water and Irrigation said that the country has managed to secure the level of water within the GERD reservoir that will enable it to produce some 700 megawatts of electricity using two turbines after a few months.

“The next milestone for GERD construction is to realize the early generation in the next few months. Congratulations to people of Ethiopia!” Engineer Seleshi said.

“Today, 19th July, 2021, the GERD reservoir reached overtopping water level. Currently, the incoming flow passes through both bottom outlets and overtopping. This year also we are experiencing extreme rainfall in the Abbay Basin (Blue Nile Basin). As a result, the GERD reservoir has filled rapidly. GERD is an Ethiopian hydropower dam and guardian infrastructure asset for the downstream countries against climate change. It is also a means to develop further and prosper together, it can never be a treat,” he said.

When fully goes operational after some five years securing a total of some 74 billion cubic meters of water, the hydro dam built on the Abbay River will enable Ethiopia to produce about 5,000 megawatts of electricity.

As almost all of the about 46 billion cubic waters of Abbay River, has been flowing into downstream countries mainly Egypt and Sudan, GERD has been raising concerns by the two countries. Meanwhile, the Government of Ethiopia has been arguing that GERD is designed in away that will not cause significant harm to the downstream countries water usage because the reservoirs will be filled gradually within seven years.

However, led by Egypt, the two downstream countries have been opposing the GERD project of Ethiopia taking the issue to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) last year and this month. The two countries have been calling on Ethiopia not to start the fist round water filling of GERD last year and the second one this year before the three countries ink a binding agreement.

Meanwhile the UNSC has referred the issue back to the African Union Commission, which has been leading the negotiations of the three countries. The Council urged the three countries to reach a mutually beneficiary agreement within the coming six months.

It was about a week before the tabling of the issue at the UNSC that Ethiopia has notified Egypt and Sudan that it has started second round water filling of GERD. Ethiopia on the other hand has been saying that the binding deal it will sign shouldn’t be a barrier for its water use of Abbay River streams. It has to be on the basis that all the three countries equally benefit from the transboundary natural resource.

Independent observers of the controversy that has been going on for over a decade, have been suggesting that Egypt and Sudan have been internationalizing and politicizing the electric power development GERD project of Ethiopia, not because the project reduces the water flow significantly into the two countries, which they have been using monopoly before.

The reason Egypt and Sudan oppose the hydropower project of Ethiopia, whose 65 million population of its total 115 million is currently in darkness is, because the two downstream countries are afraid of GERD’s geopolitical significance for Ethiopia.

During the initial water filling last year Ethiopia has announced channeling some 4.9 billion cubic meters of water into the GERD reservoir. Same rainy season this July, the government of Ethiopia has announced securing the amount of additional water that is required to make operational two of the turbines.

Though the government has planned to complete the second-round filling of the dam within July and August securing a total of about 13 billion cubic meters of water, it announced on Monday that the heavy rain has enabled it to complete the filling within a few weeks’ time.

The $4 billion GERD project has been under construction since 2011 near the Ethiopia-Sudan border with the investment raised from the public through selling of bonds to tens of millions of Ethiopians.