Ethiopia to make ‘power hub’ with 4 new Nile dams

Posted on June 30, 2011

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopia plans to build hydroelectric dams along the Nile River, an official said Wednesday, a move that would allow them to sell electricity to Egypt and Sudan though both countries have said the dams threaten their water rights.

Ethiopian power corporation manager Mihret Debebe said the four new dams could add 11,000 megawatts to the country’s ailing power grid. Another dam on the Nile is under construction and will add 5,250 megawatts. Work on the four new dams will start after 2015, he said.

He said the power will mainly be exported to neighboring countries. Other recipient countries include Kenya, Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen.

Ethiopia has already started building another Nile dam in the country’s west called the Grand Renaissance Dam.

The new dams “have the potential to double the capacity we have at the Renaissance Dam,” Mihret said.

Ethiopian officials said the current dam will cost $4.7 billion and that they will not need foreign assistance to pay for it. Officials in the aid-dependent country say they will pay for it from the country’s budget and will sell bonds and seek donations. They did not say how much the other four dams will cost or how they will be paid for.

Ethiopia’s current generating capacity is 2,000 megawatts. Its potential capacity is estimated to be 45,000 megawatts.

Mihret said Ethiopia also plans to link its electrical network with Sudan and Egypt, allowing power exports to North Africa.

Ethiopia’s government has said that hydropower projects in the Nile basin will benefit Sudan and Egypt by providing power at competitive rates and offering irrigation opportunities.

Egypt has previously refused any deal that would reduce its share of the Nile and give more access to other countries. A 1929 colonial-era treaty gives Egypt majority rights to the Nile’s waters. But Egypt’s ambassador to Ethiopia has said the new government is willing to negotiate disputed Nile River issues with Ethiopia, including the treaty.

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