May 21, 2024

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Ethiopia operates turbines at the giant Nile hydropower plant

Ethiopia operates turbines at the giant Nile hydropower plant

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia on Sunday began producing electricity from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a multi-billion dollar hydroelectric power plant on the Nile that Sudan and Egypt fear could cause water shortages downstream.

After pressing a digital switch to operate the turbines in the first phase of the project, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sought to reassure those countries that his country did not wish to harm their interests.

“Ethiopia’s main interest is to shine a light on the 60% of the population who suffer in the dark, to save the work of our mothers who carry firewood on their backs for energy,” Abiy said.

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Abiy’s government says the project is central to its economic development, but Egypt and Sudan depend on the Nile’s waters and are concerned about its impact on it.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry accused Ethiopia of committing more violations of the preliminary agreement signed between the three countries in 2015, which prohibits any of the parties from taking unilateral measures in the use of the river’s water.

The ministry said in a statement, Sunday, that the first violations of the initial agreement are related to filling the dam.

There was no immediate comment from Sudan.

Ethiopia, the second most populous country on the continent, has the second-largest electricity deficit in Africa according to the World Bank, with about two-thirds of the population of about 110 million lacking a grid connection.

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The government says the project will eventually cost $5 billion when completed and will become the largest hydropower plant in Africa by generating 5,150 megawatts of electricity, some of which will be exported to neighboring countries.

The state-run Fana TV said the government has so far invested more than 100 billion Ethiopian birr ($1.98 billion) in the project. It is located in a place called Guba in the western district of Benishangul-Gumuz.

(1 dollar = 50.6000 birr)

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Additional reporting by Moataz Mohamed in Cairo. Written by Duncan Merry and Editing by Frances Kerry

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