Batoka hydro electric project on course

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ZAMBEZI River Authority has secured US$6 million from the World Bank to update feasibility studies for the proposed Batoka Gorge Hydro-electric Power Station.
Zambezi River Authority spokesperson Ms Elizabeth Karonga said the authority is yet to announce the winning bidder to update the feasibility studies and work is expected to start in February next year.
Zimbabwe and Zambia are expected to get 1 600MW, to be shared equally from the envisaged US$3 billion project.
“We expect the project to commence at the end of 2014 and the project would take at least seven years to complete,” said Karonga.
Initial studies have shown that the Batoka hydro scheme would turn Zimbabwe into a regional net exporter of power.
“Once completed, the project will increase generation capacity and reduce reliance on electricity imports.”
Imports, mainly from Mozambique, range up to 300MW, depending on source peak periods.
Last month ZRA shortlisted six international investors for the construction of the hydropower plant at the Batoka Gorge on a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) contract.
The scheme will see the construction of a 54-kilometre Batoka Dam upstream of Lake Kariba and a hydropower plant on the Zambezi River.
The scheme is expected to have minimum environment and social impact on the communities as the dam wall would be about 181 metres in the Batoka Gorges and all the water will be confined in the gorges.
The proposed hydroelectric scheme is located on the Zambezi River, about 54km downstream of the Victoria Falls, across the boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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.
Zimbabwe produces about 1 200 megawatts of electricity against a peak demand of 2 200 megawatts, resulting in long outages that have hit industrial and agricultural production.
The nationwide power cuts are already having severe negative implications on the already squeezed industry and there are fears the situation could threaten the survival of struggling firms.
Shortage of power has exacerbated the plight of industry, which is still recovering from the effects of a decade of economic downturn, precipitated by Western-imposed sanctions.
Residents countrywide have not been spared as they endure excessive power cuts forcing households, industry and commerce to invest in expensive alternatives such as generators and inverters.
Zimbabwe has already activated both its short-term and long-term expansion projects in order to stem the power shortfall and also prime its economy for anticipated future growth.
In the short to medium term, Zimbabwe is looking at increasing power generation at Kariba Hydropower Station and Hwange Thermal Power Station.
Sino Hydro, a Chinese company, was contracted to undertake the expansion of Kariba Hydro at a cost of US$368 million.
The expansion will increase Kariba’s capacity by 300MW.
The power generation company is also working toward increasing generation capacity at Hwange Thermal Power Station where 900MW will be added to the national grid upon completion.
Another Chinese company, China Machinery and Energy Corporation, won the bid for the expansion of Hwange Units 6 and 7.
The already commissioned Lupane Coal and Methane gas project will also have a bearing on local power generation.
The project which is being undertaken between Oldstone Investment and Shan Don Sunlight Energy Company of China is expected to generate 1 800 MW.
There were also plans for a US$3 billion Sengwa power project which was supposed to be spearheaded by Rio Zim.
Also referred to as the Gokwe North thermal power project, it was envisioned that the coal-fired power station could generate a whopping 1400 MW.
If all these projects are to be completed, Zimbabwe will be able to augment its energy supplies soon.

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