OPINION By Dagim Terefe. Hydropower, which generates electricity through falling water, is Ethiopia’s the most valued a renewable resource and accounts for more than 43 billion MW of electricity generation capacity. Unfortunately, this potential has not yet been fully utilized. Ethiopia’s current power generation capacity is 4,300 MW and more than 80 percent of it is from water and the rest are from wind, solar and thermal. This clearly shows that hydropower is and will be the backbone of Ethiopia’s energy-hungry economy of the country.
The 4.5 billion USD dam, the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is at the heart of Ethiopia’s manufacturing and industrial dreams and is expected to get the country out of poverty. When completed, it is expected to be able to generate a massive 6,000 megawatts of electricity and change the overall geostrategic importance of the Eastern Nile nations and the so-called historical rights of water use.
Ethiopia is in acute shortage of electricity, still with 65 percent of its population not connected to the grid. It has been proved by Ethiopian authorities that energy generated will be enough to have its citizens to access power and sell the surplus to neighbouring countries. This will also support the African Union’s vision of achieving economic integration through infrastructural development and facilitation of a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) soon.
It is scientifically proved that hydroelectric power dams do not consume water, but Egypt is not happy with the GERD project and has been sabotaging Ethiopia because of its unfounded fear. Egypt has been accused of using policy to destabilize Ethiopia by creating internal divisions through financing separatist opposition groups to fragment the country and prevent Ethiopia from developing or utilizing its natural resources.
Egypt’s claim of having the right to using the water unilaterally is unacceptable scientifically, legally and morally. Even any person from the international community can witness the statistics of the unfair water share of Egypt and disregard the country’s claim of greediness at this time. Ethiopia contributes 85 percent of the Nile waters but had not participated in the former colonial-era treaties which gave the full right to Egypt and Sudan by ignoring Ethiopia and the rest of the upper Nile basin nations.
Even though hydropower resources serve an essential role in supporting the electric grid by providing low-cost, flexible energy services, clean energy and a multitude of secondary benefits such as flood control, irrigation, water supply, and recreational opportunities. When we come to GERD, these facts have been ignored by most international communities and financial institutions.
These institutions and few countries have been exerting a lot of pressure on Ethiopia and sadly, the world has observed when they clearly siding with Egypt during the US-brokered negotiations rather than finding a reasonable scientific win-win solutions for all parties of the Nile basin.
The UN Sustainable Development Network is promoting and working towards the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Projects (DDPPs) which is a collaborative initiative to understand and show how individual countries can achieve transition to a low-carbon economy and how the world can meet the internationally agreed target of limiting the increase in global mean surface temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius (°C). Hence, GERD is a major player or a model of building a low-carbon economy in Sub-Sahara African countries which thus requires a bold global cooperation and actual and present support to Ethiopia in finalizing the dam.
However, some major countries and international institutions have been setting themselves against GERD which clearly contradict with the international commitments or goal of the DDPPs or achieving a zero-net emission by 2050. Such ignorance is also against one of the ten principles of the UN Global Compact which lies at number 9, “encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies”. So where is the encouragement or support? Where is fairness?
Achieving the 2°C limit requires a profound transformation of energy systems within 50 years through steep declines in carbon intensity in all sectors of the economy and unprecedented global cooperation, including a global cooperative effort to support a hydroelectric dam development projects in developing countries.
According to the US DDPP report that released by the US Environmental Law Institute, Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in United States recognizes the crucial role of hydropower to sustain their transition to a decarbonized electric grid–particularly with regard to hydropower pumped storage and its ability to balance and integrate non-dispatchable renewable and water power.
In the Department of Energy Hydropower Vision report, it is also estimated that hydropower in the United States could feasibly grow from 101 gigawatts (GW) of emissions-free generating and storage capacity to nearly 150 GW by 2050, avoiding 5.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, saving 209 billion USD in avoided global damages from CO2 emissions, and creating more than 195,000 new jobs.
However, in contrary to the existing facts, the current US government and some international financial institutions are positioning themselves illogically against GERD and even halting aid to the poorer Ethiopia over dam strife which contradicts the spirit of international cooperation or is even against SDG 6.
Through the adoption of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets in 2015, the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development explicitly referring to transboundary cooperation in water, appeared at goal 6 targets 6.5 as it can play a catalytic role across multiple SDGs and targets. It is expected to generate multiple benefits relating to the protection of human health, renewable energy provision, sustainable agriculture, climate adaptation, ecosystem protection, and peace and security.
As long as fossil fuel and nuclear power energy sources are not recommended to create the world safer climate or achieve SDGs, hydropower is the only affordable, efficient, and clean alternative source of energy for poor countries like Ethiopia. It is obvious that poor countries have no financial capacity to generate power massively from other expensive renewable energy sources of wind, solar and geothermal and thus decarbonizes their development pathways in the process of achieving a zero-net emission by 2050 globally.