Ethiopia has begun installing the first two turbines, which will generate 700 megawatts (MW) of electricity, in its 6000 MW hydroelectric plant on its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile.
The announcement was made by Dr Debretsion Gebremichael, Minister of Communication and Information Technology according to the state affiliated Radio Fana.
The largest hydroelectric plant in Africa, which is more than 50 % complete, will have 16 generators in total.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, formerly known as the Millennium Dam and sometimes referred to as Hidase Dam, is a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia currently under construction. It is in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region of Ethiopia, about 15 km (9 mi) east of the border with Sudan. At 6,000 MW, the dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa when completed, as well as the 11th largest in the world sharing the spot with the Krasnoyarsk Dam. The storage reservoir has a surface area of 1561 km² at level of 640 m, i.e. 146 m behind the dam which holds a large volume of water equal to 79 billion m³.
The Ethiopian government hopes it will generate vast amounts of export revenue. The dam has caused tensions with Egypt which depends totally for its fresh water on the river Nile.
Though the river basin covers 11 countries, 85 % of its water rises in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government is on an ambitious drive to increase its installed electricity capacity from the current 4400 MW to 17300 MW by 2020, with part of the electricity to be exported to neighbouring and regional countries.
Already Ethiopia exports about 60 MW of energy to Djibouti and another 100 MW to Sudan generating millions of US dollars monthly.
Border towns in the self-declared republic of Somaliland and in Kenya are already interconnected with the Ethiopian power grid. Plans to connect the grid to South Sudan were foiled by the outbreak of civil war in that country in December 2013.
Ethiopia is planning to fuel its ambitious industrialisation plans with renewal hydro, geothermal, wind, solar and bio-waste energy and to become a net zero carbon emitter by 2025.