16 November 2009 – Tekeze Hydroelectric Power Dam, one of a number of mega-hydroelectric power projects in Ethiopia, has been inaugurated by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi on Saturday.
Construction of the over US$400 million hydro-power plant, fully funded by the Ethiopian government, was finalised more than a year ago but had been waiting for rain waters to start operations. The plant has now begun generating 75 MW electric power. When operating at full capacity the plant is expected to generate 300 MW of power.
Zenawi inaugurated the plant constructed by a Chinese company – China Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Corporation – in a joint venture with a local company, Sur Construction. More than 4,500 workers, 750 of whom are foreigners, including some from U.S. and Europe, were involved in the construction.
Senior government officials and diplomats including Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia Gu Xiaojie and the Charge d’Affaires of U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Roger Meece, attended the inauguration.
A minute of silence was observed for those who lost their lives during the construction in the highly rugged and harsh terrain in the northern most part of the country.
The selection of the site for the construction of the dam has been criticised by experts who say it was decided simply for political interests rather than with consideration of the hydro-potential of the area.
According to Tsegay Berehe, Chief of Tigary State ( the northern province of Ethiopia where the dam is located), the project has changed the history of river Tekeze that had been flowing for years with no use.
Miheret Debebe, Chief Executive Officer of EEPCo, said the project would generate one-third of the country’s power demand.
Ethiopia has been facing about 200mw electric power shortage for more than three years. This year’s power shortage was so critical that the state-owned utility – EEPCo – introduced an intensive load shedding that essentially put the country in darkness every other day.
It was just more than a month ago that the blackout was lifted following the commissioning of another hydro-project in the south western part of the country – Gilgel Gibe II.
Miheret said another hydro-power project with 600 MW capacity “ Tekeze II – will be constructed in 10 years in the same basin.
Gu on his part said the project signified the level of cooperation between Ethiopia and China while Meece called the finalization of the project the biggest chapter in Ethiopia’s effort to address the ever growing energy demand.