The Omo River, future site of gigawatts of hydroelectric dams. Photo: Seth Lieberman via flickr.
At least it's not a coal power plant... According to a new BBC article Ethiopia has inaugurated the second 400 MW phase of a controversial hydroelectric scheme on the Omo River. Issues of displacement of people, potential water conflict, and environmental problems aside, the original piece says that within the next decade Ethiopia plans on being a net-exporter of electricity because of the project--and have it overtake coffee as the nation's largest export. But what about the decade after that?The third phase of the Gilbel Gibe project will be a whopping 1.8 GW in size, and Djibouti, Kenya and Sudan have all already agreed to buy power from Ethiopia. The project will double Ethiopia's electric capacity.
In addition to the export of electricity the idea is to avoid future power cuts which have plagued the country.
Future Precipitation Variability to Increase
The thing it seems to me that Ethiopia is ignoring though is future amount and variability of rainfall. You just have to look to Venezuela today to see what can happen when you're dependent on large scale hydro and rains don't quite work out.
Money Could Be Spent on Other Renewable Sources
Future scenarios for precipitation in the region all point to increased temperatures and increased variability in rainfall. In some areas this is already happening. It seems to me that if Ethiopia can wrangle the €1.5bn+ for this hydroproject that it could equally develop some form of renewable power source not potentially crippled by future precipitation variability--and that also probably wouldn't cause so much downstream conflict.
Climate Shifts Contribute to Serious Electric Power & Water Shortages for Venezuela
China's Hydroelectric Plans to Damn the Mekong Threaten Millions
Renewable Energy, Africa
Largest Wind Farm in Sub-Saharan Africa Planned for Ethiopia
Drought Brings New Importance to Kenya's Largest Wind Farm