Tinashe Makichi Business Reporter
Government is updating an engineering feasibility study for the Batoka hydro-power project as efforts get underway to see if the project has potential to generate more than the initially projected 1 650 megawatts.The World Bank availed a $6 million grant early last year for feasibility studies to be undertaken before the construction of the project could commence.
On the basis of the World Bank 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.
The findings so far by the Italian firm revealed that the mega hydro project can produce more power as previously anticipated.
Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority chief executive Engineer Gloria Magombo yesterday confirmed the development and said some progress has been made on the project.
“The feasibility is currently ongoing with the assistance from World Bank so that the project becomes bankable,” said Engineer Magombo.
Zambezi River Authority yesterday told The Herald Business that according to the work plan the engineering feasibility study will be complete by August this year while the EIA is scheduled for completion in May this year.
ZRA is expected to work in consultation with ZESCA in Zambia and Zimbabwe Power Company in Zimbabwe on the project implementation.
Both companies doing the studies have since started their work and the Italian company has proven to be most advanced as they have already indicated how much power is likely to be produced given the advancements in designing and technology.
This is exciting news to Government because hydro-power is cheaper than thermal and certainly many times cheaper than solar.
The proposed hydro-electric scheme is located on the Zambezi River, about 54km downstream of the Victoria Falls, across the boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It involves the construction of a dam and a hydro-power plant on the Zambezi River.
So far the ZRA short-listed six international transaction advisors for the construction of a 1 600 megawatt hydropower plant to the tune of $6 billion at the Batoka Gorge along the Zambezi River near Victoria Falls
If completed, the project would increase generation capacity and reduce reliance on electricity imports and Initial studies have shown that the Batoka hydro scheme would turn Zimbabwe into a regional net exporter of power.
The project would also 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.
Last year, Energy and Power Permanent Secretary Patson Mbiriri said it was necessary to review the Batoka power project feasibility study.
Mr Mbiriri said if Government can maximise on particular utilities and get the maximum out of it then of course it will end up with more power in terms of hydro-power.
He said once both studies have been reviewed approaches will now be made and bids will be submitted to the short-listed companies to go through them.
The Batoka hydro scheme 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 because of the outstanding debts which it wanted Zimbabwe to clear first.
However, the Zimbabwe Government agreed to pay off more than $70 million it owes Zambia for the sale of the Central African Power Corporation assets which were jointly owned by the two countries thereby proving green light for the project to take off.