Ethiopia opens 1800-megawatt GIBE III Dam

Ethiopia has officially opened the Gibe III Dam, the third largest hydroelectric plant in Africa. This is part of Addis Ababa’s plan to raise power output to 17,346 megawatts from a current capacity of just over 2,200 from hydropower, wind and geothermal sources, part of which the government wants to export to neighbouring countries.

GILGEL GIBE III, ETHIOPIA (DECEMBER 17, 2016) (REUTERS) – Ethiopia’s Gibe III hydropower dam is officially open and will produce more than 1800-megawatts of electricity. The dam will nearly double the country’s energy output, helping to resolve chronic power outages and sustain a booming economy.

Work on Gibe III started in 2008 and was due to be completed around three years later, but the project has faced funding shortages over concerns about its environmental impact.

Critics say the dam will reduce water flow and devastate the fisheries of Lake Turkana, which is fed by the Omo River.

Officially opening the project on Saturday (December 17), Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said Gibe III, which is expected to boost electricity output by 94 percent was part of an array of plans to position the country as a top regional electricity exporter.

It already has various projects under construction, including the $4.1 billion Grand Renaissance Dam that will churn out 6,000 megawatts upon completion within the next five years.

“The electricity that is generated from this plant in addition to what we are expecting to generate from those that are already more than 50 percent complete, will go beyond our local demand and can be exported to foreign markets. It will enable a meaningful regional and development link to help us grow together and earn us foreign exchange. On top of that it is believed that it will make a major contribution in helping the sector to finance itself,” Desalegn said in a speech.

Under a new 2015-2020 development plan, Addis Ababa wants to raise output to 17,346 megawatts from a current capacity of just over 2,200 from hydropower, wind and geothermal sources.

Experts put Ethiopia’s hydropower potential at about 45,000 megawatts and geothermal at 5,000, while its wind power potential is believed to be Africa’s third-largest behind Egypt and Morocco.

Gilgel Gibe III was funded in part by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which stepped in with a loan of 500 million US dollars after the European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank turned down a request to disburse funds due to concerns over the project’s environmental impact.