Giant Ethiopian hydroelectric project nears completion

An 1870 MW hydropower plant in Ethiopia could begin generating power this summer and be fully operational by 2016.

The $1.8bn Gilgel Gibe 3 project has suffered severe delays due to opposition and difficulty in generating the funding needed for completion.
Gibe HEP
When it finally reaches operational stage, the plant, which commenced construction in 2008, is expected to double the country’s energy output, and simultaneously reduce the chronic power outages hindering progress.

"Some 88 per cent of the work for the Gibe 3 hydropower project has already been completed," Azeb Asnake, chief executive officer of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation, told Reuters. Two of ten units would be ready by June, Azeb said, while one additional unit would come on line each month after that.

Ethiopia is spending over $12bn in hydropower over the coming decade as it looks to harnass a resource it will export to neighbouring countries.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China provided a loan of $500m to pay for turbines in 2011, a much needed contribution to the project after the European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank both opted to turn down a request to disburse funds.

Critics of Gilgel Gibe 3 say it will reduce water flow and devastate the fisheries of Lake Turkana, which is fed by the Omo.

Azeb dismissed the concerns, saying Ethiopia's research suggests regulating river flow will stabilise fluctuating water levels. "If they read these studies, they would not continue with their arguments," she said.

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