ADDIS ABABA, June 8 (Reuters) - Ethiopia plans to launch hydropower dams and other renewable energy projects over the five years to 2020 that will add an additional 12,000 megawatts of electricity upon completion, a senior official said on Monday.
With one of the continent's fastest-growing economies, Ethiopia wants to become a manufacturing hub and Africa's top energy exporter by tapping the numerous rivers that cascade through its highlands. Experts say the Horn of Africa nation has the potential to generate 45,000 megawatts of hydropower.
Under a 2010-2015 development blueprint, the Growth and Transformation Plan 1 (GTP 1), Ethiopia started work on the $4.1 billion Grand Renaissance Dam and planned to complete the $1.8 billion Gilgel Gibe 3. Together the dams will boost generating capacity from 2,400 megawatts now to more than 10,000 megawatts upon completion.
Under a new 2015-2020 plan, or GTP 2, that is due to be endorsed by parliament in September, projects generating 12,000 megawatts will be added, Azeb Asnake, Chief Executive of state-run Ethiopian Electric Power, told Reuters.
"For this ambitious plan, the idea is to finance at least 50 percent by our own coffers, by the Ethiopian government, and the rest from different sources," she said of the projects slated to be launched by 2020.
Ethiopia's total energy plans could cost the country up to $25 billion, Azeb said.
"They could be grants, soft loans and commercial loans from foreign banks, governments and the like," she said.
Mega dams supplying up to 2,000 megawatts each set up on several main rivers and tributaries including the Omo and the Nile are part of the plan, according to official documents obtained by Reuters.
Solar, wind and geothermal projects are also planned.
Ethiopia said in 2011 it planned to launch projects to raise generating capacity to 20,000 megawatts by 2020. GTP 1 and GTP 2 will put the country slightly ahead of that target, once the projects are completed.
The government says its priority is to satisfy domestic needs but given demand still remains insignificant, a large amount of electricity produced will end up being exported.
Addis Ababa already sells a small amount of power to neighbours Sudan, Kenya and Djibouti. It has signed memorandums of understanding with South Sudan, Tanzania and Rwanda, while an underwater power link with Yemen is also in the pipeline.
Once Ethiopia's grand plans are complete, it wants to export power to countries in North and southern Africa and beyond.
"We have sufficient resources to power a very large part of Africa," Azeb said.
Other major African producers such as South Africa and Egypt boast generation capacity of about 42,000 MW and 34,000 MW, though their actual production is lower as many plants are old and need to be temporarily closed for maintenance. (Editing by Drazen Jorgic and David Clarke)