The cost of the feasibility studies on the technical, environmental, and social impacts of the dams will be covered with a $20.1M grant secured from the government of Norway.

Hydroelectric power plants planned in Mendaia (2000MW), seven kilometres upstream on the Abay River and Dedessa River confluence; Beko Abo (2100MW), located two kilometres upstream of Nekemt Bridge; and Kara Dodi (1600MW), located 70km upstream from the Renaissance Bridge; will collectively produce 300MW more power than the Grand Renaissance Dam’s 5200MW – a capacity the dam will have once construction is completed in the second quarter of 2017.

The Grand Renaissance Dam will be the largest hydropower plant on the continent, with 15 generating units, each producing 350MW of power, a capacity currently generated by Koka and Tekeze dams combined.

The Grand Renaissance Dam also symbolises the nation’s determination to build the largest dam ever with its own resources, according to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

Mendaia and Beko Abo projects are expected to be roller compacted concrete (RCC) dams, with 200 metre and 285 metre heights, making the latter the highest of its type in the world, each having an annual energy output of over 12,000 GWh a year.

The pre-feasibility studies on Mendaia and Beko Abo projects were conducted by a consortium of consultants from Norway (Norplan and Norconsult), France (Electricite de France), and the UK (Scott Wilson), as well as Shebelle Consult Plc and Tropics Consulting Engineers, both domestic firms.

The report for the studies was approved by the Ministry after reviewing reports from the consultants, following consultation with the Ethiopian Electric Power Cooperation (EEPCo) and other relevant stake holders, sources disclosed.

The pre-feasibility study includes hydrology studies, topography surveys, and geotechnical foundation and environmental studies. Aside from hydropower generation, the projects also aim to be multipurpose, providing improvements in flood control and conservation.

If all studies are finalised within the year as planned, construction will start within the coming few years. The cost of building all three dams is yet to be determined.

The Ministry is also commissioning economic feasibility studies on the Tekeze River, for its second dam, 903km north of Addis Abeba, and on the Dedessa River, in Benishangul Gumuz, 386km from the capital, which will have an estimated capacity of 450MW and 301MW.

The successful construction of these dams will increase the nation’s hydroelectric power plants to 17. Currently, EEPCo generates 2,000MW of power, while an additional 8000MW is expected in the coming three years; of which 97MW has already been added after Fincha Amertinesh Dam was inaugurated last month.

Report by the Ethiopian Embassy in London