Ethiopia’s $4 billion dam project to start operation in 2020

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The Ethiopian Water and Energy Minister, Seleshi Bekele said the country’s $4 billion dam project on the River Nile, which has been beset by construction delays and criticism from Egypt, will start initial operations in December 2020.

Until this week, progress had been unclear, especially after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed canceled a state-run conglomerate’s contract to build the turbines. The planned 6,000-megawatt Grand Renaissance Dam is the centerpiece of Ethiopia’s bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter.

To accelerate the completion of the dam, the state media reported that the government had signed an agreement with GE Hydro France, a unit of GE Renewables. Bekele also noted that the project was on track to start in two years.

Bekele said “750 megawatts is the planned initial production with two turbines. The government expected the dam to be fully operational by the end of 2022”.

Ethiopia’s dam project has caused problems with Egypt, which fears the dam will restrict Nile River waters coming down from Ethiopia’s highlands, through the deserts of Sudan, to Egyptian fields and reservoirs. Ethiopia disputes this argument and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was quoted to have said he would fight to preserve  Egypt’s Nile rights.

In August 2018, when Abiy canceled the contract of Ethiopian military conglomerate Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC),  he said not a single turbine was operational more than seven years after the government awarded the contract. In a corruption crackdown launched by the reformist leader, dozens of senior officials from METEC, including its head, have been arrested.

Bekele revealed that METEC had only completed 23 percent of the work and there have been other construction delays. He said “purchased generators, turbines and other equipment are scattered in ports and other places, meaning more costs”.

It was reported that GE Hydro France will be paid nearly 54 million euros ($61 million) to manufacture, fix and test turbine generators.

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