Ethiopia Plans to Build New Hydropower Plant

Source: Bloomberg 3/30/2011, Location: Africa

Ethiopia will build a new hydropower plant in the Nile River basin that will generate 5,250 megawatts of electricity, Water and Energy Minister Alemayehu Tegenu said.

The facility, known as the Grand Millennium Dam of Ethiopia, will be built at a cost of 80 billion birr ($4.76 billion), Alemayehu told reporters in Addis Ababa, the capital. The plant will be situated in the Benishangul-Gumuz region near the border with Sudan, he said.

The project will be funded by Ethiopia, partly through the sale of government bonds, and the Horn of Africa nation's international partners, Alemayehu said.

"The Ethiopian government is ready and determined to complete the project with or without foreign grants or loans," he said. No further details on financing or who will build the plant were provided.

Ethiopia has the second-largest hydropower potential in Africa, after the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the World Bank. The country plans to increase its electricity capacity fivefold to 10,000 megawatts over the next five years, Alemayehu said.

Some of the power produced by the plant will be exported to neighboring Sudan and Egypt, he said. Last month, Burundi became the sixth nation to sign an agreement on usage of water from the Nile River, enabling ratification of an accord that may strip Egypt of its veto power over projects that tap the world's longest river.

Egypt and Sudan will benefit more from irrigation from the reservoir than Ethiopia, according to Alemayehu.

"The dam will doubtlessly benefit all the riparian countries involved, with disadvantage to none," he said.

Egypt has not been consulted on the project, Egyptian Embassy spokesman Mostafa Ahmady said in an interview from Addis Ababa.

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