Ethiopia faces power shortages

Ethiopian drought leads to power cuts.

In addition to severe food shortages the drought in Ethiopia is also causing power cuts across the country. Over 90 per cent of Ethiopian's electricity is generated by hydropower and low water levels in reservoirs led to power cuts at the end of November.

Gibe 1 and 2 in the south have been affected by technical problems, as well as the Tekeze hydroelectric plant across the Tekeze river and the Melka Wakena on the Shebelle river. The Koka on the Awash river, the country's oldest dam, is also short of water.

Ethiopia has invested heavily in the construction of dams in the last decade, hoping to use the electricity they generate not only for its own economic development but also as a valuable export to neighbouring countries such as Kenya to the south and Sudan and Egypt to the north.

The most recent hydroelectric plant to start transmission is at Gibe 3 across the Omo in the south where the first generator came online in October. The damming of the water on the Omo has already caused hunger and hardship for about 200,000 people among the indigenous communities in southern Ethiopia and across the border in northern Kenya around Lake Turkana.

The country's most ambitious dam and its most controversial, is the Renaissance dam across the Blue Nile in the north Ethiopia, which is not due for commissioning until at least 2017. Once finished the Renaissance dam, which will have a considerable environmental impact, will control the Nile waters downstream in Sudan and Egypt. Its construction has been the subject of high level – and frequently stalled – negotiations between the three countries. When finished its 6,000 MW generating capacity will make it the largest hydro-electric plant in Africa.

The drought is not only affecting power supply. According to the latest UN report 8.2 million Ethiopians are now in need of food.