Ethiopia announces start of power generation from GERD's 2nd turbine

Ahram Online , Thursday 11 Aug 2022

Ethiopia has started operating the second electric power turbine of its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced in a ceremony Thursday, in a step that comes despite the absence of an agreement on the operating and filling rules with downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed pressing the start button to generate power from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam s (GERD) second turbine during a ceremony held on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Ethiopian Prime Minister s official Twitter account)


Ahmed congratulated the Ethiopians on the step, saying "we are proud of being able to make the history that was said to be impossible," reported Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC).

"Passing through history is an opportunity and making history is a victory… Our forefathers wished, thought, planned, but they couldn't see what we have seen today; they couldn't stand where we are standing," Ahmed was quoted as saying.

The second turbine, called Unit 9, has the capacity to produce 375 megawatts, doubling the controversial dam's power generation capacity from 375 megawatts – reached after the unilateral operation of the first turbine, Unit 10, in February 2022 – to 750 megawatts.

With two operational units out of 13 in total, the dam becomes the second largest power producer in Ethiopia, said the EBC.

However, the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) gave a contradicting figure as it reported the second turbine to be producing 270 megawatts, raising the total capacity of the now-operational two turbines to 540 megawatts.

Ethiopia eyes a total power capacity up to 5,150 megawatts from GERD after the completion of the construction and planting the remaining 11 turbines, EBC added.

Today's announcement comes after Addis Ababa unilaterally completed the first and second phase filling of the dam's 74-billion-cubic-metre reservoir over the past two years, and has recently started the third filling during the current flood season -- which lasts until September.

GERD project manager engineer Kifle Horo said the third filling is in progress, according to ENA.

He also stated that the construction of civil works reached 95 percent, the electromechanical factory and plantation work 61 percent, and the water transmission and steel works 73 percent.

The Ethiopian premier said that downstream countries "should also understand that Ethiopia has no other purpose than fulfilling its needs for power," according to the ENA.

He pointed out that the third filling has been able to hold about 22 billion cubic metres of water and generate two units of turbine electricity, indicating that there is no shortage of water in downstream countries.

The aim of the project is not to harm the lower stream countries but to show our interest in using and growing water, he pointed out.

The multi-billion dollar GERD, being under construction on the Nile River since 2010 and Ethiopia deems essential for producing electricity and economic development, has been at the centre of a regional dispute between Cairo and Khartoum on one hand, and Addis Ababa, on the other.

Egypt and Sudan have repeatedly expressed no opposition to the Ethiopian development goals, but sought a legally binding deal on the filling and operation of the dam as per the rules of international law and the principles governing transnational watercourses.

Egypt, which relies mainly on the Nile for its water needs, fears that the unilateral and quick filling and operation of the GERD would have a negative impact on the country's water supply. Meanwhile, Sudan is concerned about regulating water flows to safeguard its own dams.

Both downstream nations have been for over a decade now engaged in on-off negotiations with Ethiopia to no avail, blaming the failure of the talks on Ethiopia's intransigence.

The latest rounds of talks sponsored by the African Union collapsed in April 2021, and all attempts to revive the negotiations have since failed.

Earlier this month, Egypt resorted to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the third consecutive year, sending a letter protesting against the unilateral third filling.

Egypt stressed in the letter that the step is “a clear violation of the Declaration of Principles – signed by the three nations in 2015 – and the applicable rules of international law" that both oblige Ethiopia, as an upstream country, not to harm the rights of downstream countries.

Egypt, which is considered one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, receives around 60 bcm annually – mainly from the Blue Nile – while its needs stand at around 114 bcm, placing the over 10-million-people country well below the international threshold for water scarcity, at 560 cubic metres per person annually.

In its letter to the UNSC, Egypt held Ethiopia "fully responsibility for any significant harm to Egyptian interests that may result from Addis Ababa’s violation of its aforementioned obligations."

Egypt will not tolerate any prejudice to its rights or water security or any threat to the capabilities of the Egyptian people, for whom the Nile River represents the only lifeline, the letter added.

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