Ethiopia is set to conclude the first phase of a national power generation plan with the completion of the 1,850 megawatts plant at the Gibe III dam in time for electricity exports to Kenya, officials said Wednesday.
Ethiopia’s State Minister for Water and Energy Wondimu Tekle said the construction of the ‘electricity highway’ between Ethiopia and Kenya would start soon, following the completion of feasibility studies.
“We started the feasibility studies using the anchor loan provided to us by the African Development Bank and the World Bank,” Wondimu told PANA after opening an experts’ meeting here to set in motion the regional electric power trade.
“The construction of the highway will start soon as we have completed the process of acquiring the wayleave. We have no reason to believe we would face any resistance in acquiring the land on our side,” he added.
East Africa’s cross-border infrastructure projects frequently face delays over acquisition of land rights, as local communities claim loss of livelihoods.
“We are aware of the people’s rights but the communities are also aware of the benefits that we stand to gain. The construction projects are due to start as soon as we complete the process of compensating the communities,” the minister added.
The Gilgel Gibe III dam, an extension project expected to become Africa’s single-largest source of electricity, is due for completion in 2015.
“We are planning to start the commissioning of the first and second units soon,” Azeb Asnake, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP), told PANA. “We cannot be so sure of the entire completion in 2015, but we are ready to commission the first two of the 10 units with a capacity of 187MW.”
The first two units of the 1.5-billion-Euro project would enable Ethiopia to undertake a two-year-long trial project before it begins the exports to Kenya.
Kenya and Ethiopia are working on the construction of a 1000-km power grid that will link the two countries.
“The agreement between Ethiopia and Kenya is for 400MW. But the entire line has a huge opportunity for East Africa which has 11 countries,” Wondimu said.
Tanzania is expected to link to the Kenyan line while another line will also link Uganda to Rwanda, which will in turn link up with Burundi to create a regional network. Ethiopia is currently linked to Sudan and Djibouti.
Meanwhile, African Energy and Water Ministers are due to meet Friday to discuss the regional trade in electricity.
They will also receive funding proposals from international donors attending the East African Power Pool meeting.