by William Davison
Ethiopia may face further power shortages because of low water levels at dams after a poor rainy season, an official said, following two days of sporadic cuts caused by technical faults at hydropower plants.
Unspecified issues at a substation serving Oromia region’s Gibe 1 and 2 plants, which together can produce as much as 604 megawatts, and a shutdown at the 320-megawatt Tana Beles installation in Amhara state, caused the outages on Nov. 28-29, Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy spokesman Bezuneh Tolcha said Monday by phone.
The drought affecting the east of the country that’s left 8.2 million Ethiopians in need of food aid wasn’t related to the outages, though that may change in the coming months unless there’s non-seasonal rainfall, he said.
“There has been a shortage of rain all over country,” he said from the capital, Addis Ababa. “The dams have not collected as much water as they can collect.”
Growth in Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation and largest coffee producer, was 8.7 percent last year and may be 8.1 percent this fiscal year, according to the International Monetary Fund. The drought threatens to crimp economic expansion in a country where 39 percent of output stems from agriculture, about 90 percent of which relies on rain.
The 300-megawatt capacity Tekeze Hydropower Project in the drought-affected Tigray region is producing only 10 megawatts, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was cited as saying in an interview with The Reporter, an Addis Ababa-based newspaper, published on Nov. 28.
Two months after the end of the main rainy season, there are severe water shortages at the country’s oldest dam at Koka on the Awash River, which can generate 42 megawatts, and the 153-megawatt Melka Wakena on the Wabe Shabelle in east Oromia, Hailemariam said.
Over 94 percent of Ethiopia’s electricity was generated by hydropower in the last quarter of the fiscal year that ended July 7, and production increased 3.5 percent to 2,300 gigawatt hours compared with the year before, according to central bank data. The first two turbines from the 1,870-megawatt Gibe III plant have started producing power, Bezuneh said, without giving details.
The construction of Africa’s largest power station, the 6,000-megawatt Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, is scheduled for completion in mid-2017 and it may annually produce as much as 15,860 gigawatt-hours of electricity.