Zimbabwe might construct Batoka Gorge Power Station

(Monday 19th September 2011)

HARARE — Zimbabwe will construct the Batoka Gorge Power Station alone if Zambia refuses to invest in the project, power utility Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority says.

This comes after negotiations for a joint operation between the two countries were stalled following Zimbabwe’s failure to pay a $260 million debt it owes to Zambia for the shared Kariba infrastructure.

Zesa has to date failed to secure investment for its proposed power generation projects.

Simbarashe Mangwende, Zesa deputy board chairperson and former chief executive, told businessdaily on Thursday that Zimbabwe had made contingent provisions to construct the 1 600 megawatt Batoka station amid fears Zambia could refuse to buy into the proposed joint venture.

“The questions of whether we go it alone or not will entirely depend on the Zambians’ willingness to join into the venture. And I must say that right now the political differences between the two countries regarding the project have been resolved, but Zambia can say that they are unable to raise the requisite financial resources because they are already engaged in other power projects” Mangwende said.

He said Zambia’s finances were being drained by on-going projects like the Kafue Gorge Lower Hydro-electric Power Station (Kafue).

Zambia commissioned construction of the $2 billion Kafue in July this year.

The venture is set to add 750 megawatts to Zambia’s national grid upon completion in 2017.

Mangwende said although Zimbabwe could find ways to individually complete the project, it would be more strategic for government to partner neighboring Zambia to share the huge finance costs estimated at over $4, 2 billion.

“Construction of Batoka was estimated at $2, 2 billion at the last feasibility study in 1993 and I would expect that the cost has more than doubled by now. As such, the best is to do it as a joint venture because the project is too big in terms of finance requirements and the production output compared to the size of our economy.”

Construction of the Batoka plant together with construction of another 1 400 megawatt station at Gokwe North is the country’s long term power initiative.

The two projects are set for completion in 2017.

Batoka is situated 50 kilometers down stream of Victoria Falls and would provide 800 Megawatts of hydro power, generation capacity for each of the two countries.

Research has shown that construction of the power station would enhance generating capacity of the Kariba Power Station, adding a further 300 megawatts to its current 600-megawatt capacity.

The Kariba north extension is amongst the country’s medium term power generation plans.

In the short term, Zimbabwe plans to refurbish Hwange thermal power station and focus on bridging import gaps.

The country currently imports 35 percent of its electricity requirements from Mozambique, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Meanwhile, Zesa business development and planning manager Patrick Chivaura said the widely contested 31 percent hike in tariffs would result in a viable business model for the utility company.

“The new tariffs will also be able to attract private players into power production because they are businesses who need to make profit,” he said, adding that part of the money collected from tariffs will be channeled towards the proposed power plant construction and expansion plans.

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