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Ethiopia's GERD turbines start spinning as Kenya ready to buy power

Initial construction works on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in June 2013. The Sh542 billion project put Ethiopia and Egypt at loggerheads over the use of the River Nile waters. [AP]

Ethiopia Thursday started power production from the second turbine of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd), doubling the power production capacity from the hydroelectricity dam.

This is even as Kenya readies to start importing huge amounts of power from the neighbouring country in November following the signing of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between Kenya Power and Ethiopian Electric Power last month.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed presided over the launch yesterday, according to the state-owned Fana Broadcasting Corporate (Fana BC).

The State broadcaster said the newly operational turbine will increase power production capacity at the dam from 270 megawatts to 540MW.

The first turbine was switched on in February.

The power production facility is still a work in progress and is expected to eventually produce over 6,000MW, contributing to the regional power pool, with countries like Kenya offering a ready market.

“The Gerd is the historical project on which Ethiopians have invested their labour, money and knowledge,” Abiy was quoted as saying by Fana BC.

Ethiopia generates nearly all its electricity from hydro sources. Gerd is the largest of its hydro dams.

The construction of the dam has been a bone of contention between Ethiopia and Egypt over the use of River Nile’s waters.

The PPA that Kenya Power and EEP signed last month will see Kenya import electricity from its northern neighbour from November.

Initially, the country will import 200MW but scale this up to 400MW within three years.

The use of hydropower from Ethiopia will enable Kenya to cut reliance on costly thermal power plants, which are used whenever generation from cheaper plants such as hydro is not adequate to meet demand.

The thermal producers use heavy fuel oil and the cost of acquiring the fuel is passed on to consumers. This fuel charge is subject to monthly changes, depending on the price of oil in the global market. In the financial year ending June 2021, Kenya Power paid thermal power producers Sh12 billion in fuel costs.

“The agreed Tariff is competitive and will see Kenyans enjoy power at a lower cost. The energy is hydropower which is considered clean, reliable and affordable,” said Kenya Power acting Chief Executive Geoffrey Muli during the signing of the PPA with Ethiopian Electric Power last month.

The Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) is expected to complete a transmission line that will facilitate power trade between the two countries ahead of the commencement of the PPA in November.

The 1,045-kilometre high voltage transmission line originates from Wolaita Sodo in South Central Ethiopia – about 520 kilometres from the Moyale border – and terminates at Suswa.

The Kenyan bit of the line is about 641km and is being put up for Sh42.5 billion.

The Kenyan end of the line, whose construction started last year, has faced major delays owing to myriad challenges, including the collapse of a contractor – Spanish firm Isolux Corsan – that was initially given the job as well as the lengthy land acquisition process for the Right of Way.

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