Ethiopia to start producing energy at Grand Renaissance dam at end of 2020

In this file photo, Ethiopian workers stand on scaffolding during the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam near the Sudanese-Ethiopian border. (AFP)
Updated 03 January 2019
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Ethiopia to start producing energy at Grand Renaissance dam at end of 2020

  • The planned 6,000-megawatt Grand Renaissance Dam is the centrepiece of Ethiopia's bid to become Africa's biggest power exporter
  • The project has caused problems with Egypt, which fears the dam will restrict Nile River waters coming down from Ethiopia's highlands to Egyptian fields and reservoirs

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia's $4 billion dam project on the River Nile, which has been beset by construction delays and criticism from Egypt, will start initial operations in December 2020, the water and energy minister said on Thursday.
The planned 6,000-megawatt Grand Renaissance Dam is the centrepiece of Ethiopia's bid to become Africa's biggest power exporter, but until this week progress had been unclear after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last August cancelled a state-run conglomerate's contract to build the turbines.
State media reported on Wednesday that the government had signed an agreement with GE Hydro France, a unit of GE Renewables, to accelerate the completion of the dam, and water and energy minister Seleshi Bekele said on Thursday the project was on track to open in two years' time.
"750 megawatts is the planned initial production with two turbines," Seleshi told parliament. The government expected the dam to be fully operational by the end of 2022, he said.
The project has caused problems with Egypt, which fears the dam will restrict Nile River waters coming down from Ethiopia's highlands, through the deserts of Sudan, to Egyptian fields and reservoirs.
Ethiopia disputes that and in November Abiy was quoted by Egyptian state media as saying he wanted to preserve Egypt's Nile rights.
When Abiy cancelled the contract of Ethiopian military conglomerate Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC) in August, he said not a single turbine was operational more than seven years after the government awarded the contract. Dozens of senior officials from METEC, including its head, have been arrested in a corruption crackdown launched by the reformist leader who took office last year.
METEC had only completed 23 percent of the work, Seleshi said on Thursday.
There have been other construction delays.
"Purchased generators, turbines and other equipment are scattered in ports and other places, meaning more costs," Seleshi said.
GE Hydro France will be paid nearly 54 million euros ($61 million) to manufacture, fix and test turbine generators, state media said.


Report raises fresh doubts over Trump’s NATO commitment

Updated 16 January 2019
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Report raises fresh doubts over Trump’s NATO commitment

  • Last year, Trump repeatedly told senior officials that he did not see the point of NATO
  • Before taking office, Trump called NATO “obsolete”

WASHINGTON: Fresh doubts surfaced Tuesday over President Donald Trump’s commitment to NATO, after he was reported to have discussed a desire to pull out of the trans-Atlantic military alliance.
Last year, Trump repeatedly told senior officials that he did not see the point of NATO — the historic alliance that forms the backbone of the West’s post-World War II security order — and that he wanted to withdraw, The New York Times reported.
He has often blasted members of the 29-nation partnership for not paying more into their national defense budgets.
Before taking office, Trump called NATO “obsolete” and soon after a tumultuous summit in July, he questioned whether the US would honor the alliance’s founding principle of mutual defense for newest member Montenegro.
Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, said the US remains “100 percent” committed to NATO.
At the summit the president said the US “commitment to NATO is very strong” and “tremendous progress has been made” by allies and partners.
“That has not changed,” Pahon said in a statement.
“NATO remains the cornerstone of transatlantic security.”
In Brussels, a NATO official also highlighted Trump’s comments from the July summit.
“The United States is strongly committed to NATO and to transatlantic security,” the official told AFP.
“The US has significantly boosted its commitment to the defense of Europe, including with increased troop commitments.”
Turning 70 this year, NATO has underpinned Western security in Europe for decades, first countering the Soviet Union and then Russian expansionism.
A US withdrawal from NATO would be a strategic gift of epic proportions to Russia, which is accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential elections to help Trump win.
Former defense secretary Jim Mattis was a staunch proponent of NATO and repeatedly visited its Brussels headquarters, where he sought to reassure allies about America’s commitment to the alliance.
But Mattis quit last month, and observers see a shrinking coterie of advisers around Trump willing to push back against him.
The US Congress, including Trump’s own Republican Party, would likely push back against any effort to withdraw from NATO.
The only country to have ever invoke Article 5, NATO’s collective defense principle, was America following the September 11, 2001 attacks.