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The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Gets Set to Open

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Construction of the 6,000-megawatt, US $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) began nearly six years ago and is now close to completion. Sometime in 2017, the dam, which sits on the Blue Nile near the border of Ethiopia and Sudan, will begin producing electricity. Meanwhile, its vast 74 billion-cubic-meter reservoir will start to fill, a process expected to take anywhere from five to 15 years.

Ethiopia badly needs it. Only about a quarter of its citizens have access to electricity. The country’s installed capacity is a dismal 3,200 MW, and the annual per capita electricity consumption is among the lowest in the world—65 kilowatt-hours in 2013, far below even the average of 488 kWh for sub-Saharan African countries and the world average of 3,104 kWh. Without electricity, the vast majority of Ethiopians rely on burning wood, dung, and other forms of biomass, and so deforestation and soil erosion has accelerated.

map of area of Ethiopian Dam