In 2011, Ethiopia began building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile River in the Guba region, 40 km east of Sudan. The GERD is projected to have 74 billion cubic meters (BCM) of storage capacity and about 60 BCM live storage to generate 6000 MW. The project consists of a roller compacted concrete (RCC) dam, saddle dam, two powerhouses, a 500 kV switchyard and a spillway, Figure 1. There are also plans to sell electricity to surrounding countries; however, this requires major construction of transmission lines. As of October 2014, the Ethiopian government announced that the dam was 43% completed. Even though the GERD project is well underway, the potential impacts of the dam have been the source of severe regional controversy, particularly between the governments of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. Egypt, which relies heavily on the waters of the Nile, has demanded that Ethiopia cease construction on the dam as a precondition to negotiations. Sudan has accused Egypt of inflaming the situation. To address these issues, the three countries assembled an international panel of experts and asked their opinion regarding sustainability of the GERD.
A key aspect of the requested analysis was to assess economic and environmental sustainability, as well as a risk analysis and mitigation strategies related to construction of the GERD.
The teaching objective of this case is to provide students a real world issue related to infrastructure planning as well as highlight sustainability concerns for power supply and demand. The case includes an assessment on the balancing of economic, environmental, social, cultural, health and political needs.