Ethiopia rations electricity as water falls behind major new dam

A depletion of the reservoir behind a major new hydropower dam in Ethiopia has prompted the government to ration electricity for homes and businesses and suspend power exports to neighbouring countries.

Under the plan, householders will face blackouts for several hours each day until July, while cement and steel makers will have to cut the number of shifts worked.

The drop in water levels behind the 1,870MW Gibe III dam on the Omo River, which began full operations in 2016, had caused a deficit of 476MW, more than a third of the country’s electricity generation of 1,400MW, Reuters reported.

Ethiopia’s minister for water and electricity, Seleshi Bekele, told reporters on Friday, 17 May that the country had also suspended exports to neighbouring Djibouti and Sudan, which earns the government $180m.

Built by Italy’s Salini Construttori beginning in 2006, the Gibe III dam is to be surpassed by the 6.4GW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile, now under construction, although behind schedule, by Italy’s Salini Impregilo.

Image: The Gibe III dam on the Omo River, Ethiopia (Mimi Abebayehu/CC BY-SA 4.0)

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