Leaders Sign “Declaration of Principles” for 6,000-MW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Hydropower Project

Leaders from Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia have signed an agreement to end a long-time dispute regarding the controversial 6,000-MW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance hydropower plant.

The US$4.8 billion plant, to be located on the Blue Nile River in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region of Ethopia, has sparked disputes between the countries throughout its development over water shortages feared primarily in Sudan and Egypt.

An agreement signed today in Sudan capital Khartoum, however, by Egyptian Prime Minister Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, Ethiopian Prime Minister Halemariam Desalegn and Sudan President Omar al-Bashir is being called a “declaration of principles” and includes assurances from Ethiopia that the project will not decrease water availability downstream.

The agreement could alter or replace a treaty written by Britain in 1929 that gives Egypt veto power over any projects in upstream countries that involve the Nile River. Ethiopia’s apparent disregard for the 1929 treaty led Egypt to ponder military intervention when Ethiopia began diverting the Blue Nile in 2013, though the countries have since launched joint initiatives to study the dam’s potential impacts.

HydroWorld.com reported in September that the water ministers of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan had agreed to establish a committeeintended to study water resources and socio-environmental effects related to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s construction.

Ethiopian officials said in March they expect to be producing at least 750 MW of power from Grand Renaissance within 18 months. The project is reported to be 35 percent complete.

Grand Renaissance — formerly known as both “Project X” and the “Millennium Project” before Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers renamed it in 2011 — will be owned and operated by the Ethiopian Electric Power Corp.

Alstom last year signed a US$406.32 million contract with Metals & Engineering Corp. to supply eight 375-MW turbine-generators for the project. Salini Construttori Spa of Italy received a contract in 2011 to construct the project 40 kilometers from the Sudan border.

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