Ethiopia has launched electricity production from the second turbine of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), doubling its power output to 540MW.
The production was launched by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as Egypt protested, pending resolutions on the future safety and dispute resolutions from the use of the dam on the Blue Nile.
“The GERD is the historical project on which Ethiopians have invested their labour, money and knowledge,” the Prime Minister underlined, according to a speech shared by the FANA Broadcasting Service.
According to Ahmed, the GERD is a reward of the dreams of the ancestors.
The newly launched turbine at GERD’s Unit 9 will produce up to 270 MW of electricity. It will add to a similar capacity already produced by Unit 10, whose turbine was launched in February this year.
The dam now already produces the same amount of power as that of Gibe dams on the country’s Omo River.
The $5 billion project put up from local fundraising is set to produce up to 6,400MW of power when fully operational. Ethiopian authorities think it could help improve access to electricity which is currently just under 45 percent.
In February, PM Abiy said the dam was also beneficial to neighbours with supply of surplus electricity as well as control of floods.
Since 2011, GERD’s construction has been a subject of controversy as Ethiopia, the largest source of the Nile waters, bickered with Egypt, the largest consumer of the Nile waters. Sudan was also pulled in as it is a consumer of the Nile waters.
The water levels of the dam which is under construction will be filled gradually in future, hitting a capacity that can produce about 6,400MW of electricity. Officials have, however, recently projected lower production figures. Ethiopian officials said the initial production will generate at least 375MW.
In the first filling, the dam’s reservoir collected 4.5 billion cubic metres of water in the first filling and 13.9 cubic metres in the second phase, according to the Ethiopian Ministry for Water, Irrigation and Energy.
With the dam at 145 metres high and 1.78km long, could hold as much as 74 billion cubic metres of water.
However, while Ethiopia seeks to enlarge electricity supply to its 110 million people in which 60 percent of them have no access to power, downstream countries Egypt and Sudan have demanded assurances that the project will not harm their water needs or make it difficult to project flooding.
For years, Egypt and Sudan have been depending on the Nile waters for most of their water needs.
The dam lies on the Blue Nile River in the Benishangul-Gumuz region in western Ethiopia, near the border with Sudan. The region had recently experienced violence from a local militia group so the launch of the project is also likely to boost security in the area.