Tinashe Makichi Business Reporter—
The Batoka hydro-power project, to be undertaken on the Zambezi River, has potential to generate more than the initially anticipated 1 650 megawatts, Secretary for Energy and Power Development Mr Patson Mbiriri has said. The new information was revealed following a feasibility study carried on the Batoka power project that is now being finalised.
However, Mr Mbiriri would not be drawn into disclosing the numbers on the extent of the projected increase in power from Batoka.
The World Bank availed a $6 million grant early this year towards funding the review of a project feasibility study to be done before construction commences.
“On the basis of the grant, consultants have been appointed and the review of the feasibility study was given to an Italian company while the environmental and social impact study was awarded to a South African company,” he said.
“Both companies have started their work and perhaps the Italian company is at the most advanced stage and they have already indicated how much power we are likely to get, and in fact, given the advancements in designing and technology, we are likely to get more power than initially indicated in the studies that were done in the ’90s,” said Mr Mbiriri.
“That is exciting news to us because hydropower is cheaper than thermal and certainly, many times cheaper than solar.”
Batoka is located on the Zambezi River, about 54km downstream of the Victoria Falls, across the boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The project involves the construction of a dam and a hydro-power plant on the Zambezi River.
So far the Zambezi River Authority, which is the company managing the project has short-listed six international transaction advisors for the construction of the hydro-power plant, estimated to cost $6 billion on the Batoka Gorge.
The Authority is expected to work in consultation with Zambia’s power utility ZESCA in and Zimbabwe Power Company in project implementation.
If completed, the project would increase the countries power generation capacity and reduce reliance on imported electricity. Initially studies showed that the Batoka hydro project would turn Zimbabwe into a regional net exporter of power.
The project is set to improve the generation mix which is currently skewed in favour of coal-fired plants.
The Batoka hydro concept was conceived in 1972 out of a study instituted by the predecessor of Zambezi River Authority, the Central African Power Corporation.
Mr Mbiriri said it was necessary to review the feasibility studies and environment impact studies that were done in the past.
“If we can maximise on particular utilities and get the maximum out of it, then of course we will end up with more power in terms of hydro-power,” said Mr Mbiriri.
He said once both studies have been reviewed, approaches will be made and bids will be submitted to the short-listed companies to go through them.
There will be two possible options, either the six companies will compete for the job or they could form a consortium.
Mr Mbiriri said forming a consortium would make it easy for Government and the companies involved in getting necessary skills without going through a tendering process.
The Batoka hydro project is among Zimbabwe’s long-term plans to deal with the prevailing power deficit in the region.
Plans for the project were initially mooted in 1993, but the Zambian government was reluctant to proceed with the project because of the outstanding debts from the unequal sharing of the ex-Capco assets, which it wanted Zimbabwe to clear first.
Eventually, Government agreed a few years ago to pay off more than $70 million it owed Zambia for the sale of the Central African Power Corporation assets which were jointly owned by the two countries during the federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.