Ethiopia to generate electrical energy from GERD amid negotiations impasse

Ethiopia is for the primary time making ready to generate energy from the enormous hydroelectric Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) that Addis Ababa is constructing on the Blue Nile (one in all two most important tributaries of the Nile) in a move more likely to enhance current tensions with Egypt and Sudan.

Ethiopian press studies stated that Addis Ababa is now prepared to start out testing energy era from the dam.

Ethiopia, which has accomplished the development of greater than 80% of the controversial dam, is searching for to supply 700 MW by working the primary two generators, thus masking 20% of its personal wants, authorities officers have acknowledged.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed convened an expanded Cabinet assembly on Jan. 5 on the development web site of the dam within the Benishangul area, positioned 900 kilometers northwest of the capital, Addis Ababa, to observe up on the implementation of his plan for the primary 100 days after his re-election as prime minister in July 2021. Ahmed additionally inspected the development work of the dam the place work began 11 years in the past.

Ethiopia has repeatedly failed to start out producing energy from the GERD. Addis Ababa officers had hoped that electrical energy can be generated from the dam by October 2021, however that was not achieved both. The electrical energy manufacturing capability in Ethiopia presently stands at 4,967 MW.

Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia have been locked in a bitter, decade-old dispute over the GERD amid repeated failed makes an attempt on the a part of the African Union since June 2020 to dealer a deal to finish the stalemate within the negotiations. The final try was in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in April 2021. It did not result in an settlement on relaunching the negotiations and prompted the events to change accusations of obstructing the talks.

On July 19, 2021, Ethiopia introduced the completion of the second filling of the dam’s reservoir, which might be sufficient to generate hydroelectric energy, regardless of Egypt and Sudan’s rejection of the unilateral determination.

This Ethiopian move got here months after a diplomatic escalation culminated in repeated Egyptian threats to hold out army motion in opposition to the dam within the occasion Addis Ababa launched into this step.

Despite the current decline in indications whereby Egypt would take army motion in opposition to the dam, diplomatic statements exchanged between the 2 nations nonetheless point out that the battle could erupt at any second, with repercussions more likely to have an effect on an already unstable area.

Abbas Sharaki, Egyptian professor of geology and water sources at Cairo University, informed Al-Monitor that Ethiopia’s insistence on working the 2 generators and producing electrical energy with out reaching an settlement with Egypt and Sudan proves Addis Ababa’s ongoing intransigence, and this complicates the negotiations.

He added that though energy era requires the passing of three billion cubic meters of water saved final yr and that may find yourself in Egypt and Sudan, “This remains a step through which Ethiopia is trying to impose a fait accompli.” 

Addis Ababa argues that it has efficiently accomplished the second section of filling of the dam with a capability of 13.5 billion cubic meters of water as deliberate, however Egyptian and Sudanese water specialists say that it has solely managed to retailer three billion cubic meters along with the 4.9 billion cubic meters of water that was saved throughout the first filling section in July 2020.

Sharaki stated that the convening of an Ethiopian Cabinet assembly on the dam web site conveys two messages, the primary of which is to the Ethiopians whereby the federal government is set to finish the undertaking as quickly as doable, and the opposite to Egypt and Sudan whereby “the Ethiopian government is determined to move forward despite the failure to reach an agreement with the downstream countries on filling and operating the dam.”

While Ethiopia says the $5 billion dam, the biggest in Africa, is of paramount significance for its financial improvement and power era, Egypt considers it a critical menace to its provides of the Nile water, because it almost totally will depend on them to fulfill its wants of contemporary water.

A current Egyptian authorities report anticipated that filling and working the dam based mostly on Ethiopian plans with out reaching an settlement will negatively have an effect on the manufacturing of hydroelectric energy generated by the High Dam. Hydroelectric energy accounts for about 6% of the electrical energy manufacturing in Egypt, most of which comes from the High Dam.

Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Ati additionally warned in November that any scarcity of water coming to Egypt would have an effect on staff within the agricultural sector, thus inflicting safety and social instability within the area whereas growing unlawful immigration.

For its half, Sudan, which believes that the dam regulates the waters of the Blue Nile and generates energy it may gain advantage from, is searching for ensures concerning its protected and applicable operation with the intention to protect its dams — together with the Roseires Dam, the biggest Sudanese dam.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stated in November that his nation was wanting ahead to reaching a authorized, binding and simply settlement on the GERD with Ethiopia “far from any unilateral approach that seeks to impose a fait accompli,” based mostly on the rules of worldwide regulation and the outcomes of the UN Security Council.

In mid-September, the Security Council issued a presidential assertion calling on the three nations to renew negotiations in a constructive and cooperative method underneath the auspices of the African Union “to swiftly finalize the text of a binding and mutually acceptable agreement on the filling and operation of the dam.”

Since then, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is presently chairing the African Union, has been searching for to immediate the three nations to renew negotiations, to no avail. The chance of resuming negotiations was additional sophisticated by the turmoil in Sudan and Ethiopia’s preoccupation with its civil battle with the Tigray rebels.

But federal authorities forces have lately made progress of their 14-month-old battle in opposition to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front rebels after they took management of the strategic areas, most notably Amhara and Afar, from which the rebels out of the blue withdrew in December; this may occasionally encourage a cease-fire and the beginning of negotiations between the 2 events.

The United States is pushing for the resumption of negotiations between the three nations to reach an settlement earlier than the third filling of the dam’s reservoir scheduled for subsequent June. Washington believes that the Tigray battle has negatively affected the negotiations, nevertheless it hopes that ending the battle will contribute to reviving the tripartite negotiations.

On the opposite, former US Ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn believes that Ahmed’s settlement of his battle with Tigrayans isn’t in Egypt’s curiosity.

Shinn informed Al-Monitor that it’s within the curiosity of Egypt for the Ethiopian central authorities to stay in disarray. “Any restoration of control by Abiy Ahmed will strengthen the Ethiopian government’s hand and its ability to stand up to Egypt,” Shinn added.

“The continuing political uncertainty in Sudan also strengthens the hand of Abiy Ahmed (in the dam dispute), as Sudan had aligned itself with Egypt on the GERD issue and now is mostly consumed with internal political problems,” he stated.

While Sharaki believes that resuming negotiations on the dam disaster can be tough at the moment given the deteriorating political state of affairs in Sudan, he anticipated that David Satterfield, the newly appointed US particular envoy for the Horn of Africa, succeeding Jeffrey Feltman, will conduct a tour that features the three nations and that will contribute to breaking the present impasse within the negotiations.

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