hydroelectric power
Gibe III hydro plant. pic credit: BBC
The Gibe III hydro plant is expected to export 500MW to Kenya, 200MW to Sudan and 200MW to Djibouti.

Ethiopia has commissioned the trial production of electricity at the $1.8 billion Gilgel Gibe III hydro plant on the River Omo, the EastAfrican reported last week.

The Gibe III hydro plant is expected to supply both the domestic and export markets when the installation of 10 turbines, each with a capacity of 187MW, is completed.

Speaking on the progress made to date, Ethiopia's Water, Irrigation and Energy Minister Alemayehu Tegenu said power generation will start this month from three turbines with an output of 561MW.

Providing electricity, irrigation and more

Alemayehu explained that in addition to power generation, the Gibe III hydro plant will regulate water flows to end the annual flooding in the South Omo region. It will also provide a year-round supply to downstream irrigation projects.

The Gibe III hydro plant is the third plant on the Gibe-Omo hydroelectric cascade including the upstream Gilgel Gibe and Gibe II, which are already operating.

The Ethiopian government plans to build downstream Gibe IV and Gibe V plants in the future.

Gibe III hydro plant: strategic location

The Gibe III hydro plant project is on the lower course of the River Omo, some 155km downstream of the Gilgel Gibe II powerhouse. This important water resource supplies Lake Turkana in northwestern Kenya, which receives 90% of its water from the River Omo.

Environmental activists have been campaigning against the project, saying the flow into the lake will be reduced by about two-thirds for three years while the reservoir is filled, threatening the livelihoods of as many as 300,000 people.

Exporting power from Gibe III hydro plant

Having a height of 243 metres and total installed capacity of 1,870MW, the Gibe III hydro plant project is the highest Roller Compacted Concrete dam to facilitate better access to electricity for the nation as well the neighbouring countries.

The Gibe III hydro plant is expected to supply about half of its electricity to Ethiopia, with 500MW being exported to Kenya, 200MW to Sudan and 200MW to Djibouti.

The construction of a high-voltage transmission line from Wolyta Sodo in Ethiopia to Suswa substation near Naivasha town in Kenya is expected to be completed in 2018 to facilitate trade in electricity.