By Tsegaye Tadesse
Addis Ababa - Ethiopia is building three hydropower dams at a cost of $1,4-billion (about R14-billion) and hopes to generate millions of dollars in foreign currency by exporting excess electricity to three neighbouring countries, officials said.
The dams - harnessing power from rivers cascading from Ethiopia's rugged, towering mountains - are expected to produce a total of 1 155 Megawatts, the official said on Tuesday.
"By 2010, the construction of the Tekeze hydro power dam with a capacity of 300 MW, Geligele Gibe II with a capacity of 420 MW and Belesse hydro power dam with a capacity of 435 MW will be completed," said Sendeku Araya, head of public relations at the state-owned Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO).
"Ethiopia aims to export its excess electric power to neighbouring Sudan, Djibouti and Kenya and earn millions of dollars," Sendeku told Reuters in an interview.
He said the cost of building the dams was being covered by the Ethiopian government as well as loans from the Italian government and the European Investment Bank.
Tesfaye Batu, project manager for the construction of a $68-million power line linking Shehedi in Ethiopia to Gedaref in Sudan 194 kms away, said work was progressing well.
"When the project is completed Ethiopia would earn $30-million annually for the export of 200 MW low-cost hydropower, to neighboring Sudan which is intended to replace the costly thermal generation which it is currently using," Tesfaye said.
The project is expected to be completed by 2010, he added.
Bogale Feyissa, project manager for a powerline linking Ethiopia to Djibouti, said the construction of the 283 km line supplying 40 MW to the Red Sea state is expected to cost $62-million, which the African Development Bank has agreed to fund.
Sendeku said plans to supply hydropower to Kenya was still under discussion.
Ethiopia currently generates 800 MW from four hydropower plants for domestic consumption.