PATSON PHIRI, Lusaka
ZAMBIA and Zimbabwe are placing hopes in the planned Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme (BGHES) for the future of energy supply and industrial growth.
This follows the approval of the US$89 million 2017 budget for the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) which is set to construct the power plant.
ZRA is jointly owned by Zambia and Zimbabwe and managed by a council of ministers from both countries.
The Council of Ministers is the governing body of ZRA comprising ministers of Energy and Finance.
The authority was established as a body corporate on October 1, 1987 by parallel legislation in the parliaments of Zambia and Zimbabwe following the reconstitution of Central African Power Corporation as it was then called.
Speaking at a press briefing recently in Victoria Falls town where the meeting leading to the approval was held, Minister of Energy David Mabumba said ZRA must look beyond the Kariba Dam for power generation in its bilateral relations with Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Mr Mabumba, who is the new chairperson of ZRA, said investment in alternative sources of power generation will help build the economies of the two countries and address the power deficits that the two countries are facing.
The minister said Zambia and Zimbabwe must invest in long-term alternative power generation that will create jobs for the citizens of the two countries.
â€œBoth countries have been faced with challenges of load shedding and have depended on importation of power to run their industries.
To avert load shedding, the two countries need to improve on power generation which has led to the creation of the Batoka Gorge project.
â€œThe Batoka Hydro Electric Scheme is a very strategic project for the two countries and that is why we also discussed in the meeting that we also include ministers and permanent secretaries from the Ministry of Water Development in the council,â€ Mr Mabumba said.
He said the two countries cannot continue to import power if they were to grow their economies.
And Minister of Finance Felix Mutati said the two countries will host an international forum in February in a bid to secure the US$3.6 billion required for the development of the Batoka Hydro-Power project.
â€œThe Council of Ministers looking at the construction of the Batoka Hydro Power Scheme will next year hold an investment forum to source funds for the project,â€ he said.
Mr Mutati said the Zambian government will not be affected by the new project as it would be financed through international donors.
And Zimbabweâ€™s Minister of Energy and Power Development Samuel Undenge said the construction of hydro-power scheme will produce the cheapest power at 3.6 cents per kilowatt.
â€œThe feasibility studies are almost complete and we are hopeful that with this coming year or the next two years, the project will take off,â€ he said.
And Zimbabweâ€™s Minister of Finance and Economic Development Patrick Chinamasa expressed happiness with the level of co-operation between the two countries. He said US$ 294 million has been secured for the rehabilitation of the Batoka project.
The proposed BGHES was conceived in 1972 out of a study instituted by the Authorityâ€™s predecessor, the Central African Power Corporation.
The project is envisaged to consist of a Roller Compacted Concrete (RCC) dam with two underground power stations (one on the North Bank and another on the South Bank).
The planned installed capacity is 2400MW (2×1200 MW). It will be located on the Zambezi River approximately 54 km downstream from the Victoria Falls.
In developing the BGHES, the authority together with its advisors, are currently reviewing and updating the engineering feasibility studies and environmental & social impact assessment, as well as developing possible financial and commercial development modes.
As part of this development, ZRA intends to engage with market potential participantsâ€” equity providers, debt providers and construction contractors or technical services providersâ€” to solicit feedback on possible transaction and commercial development modes.
Zimbabwe and Zambia are faced with bleak future as industry continues to grow at a rate faster than power generation projects are scaling up.
Power in Zimbabwe is currently generated mainly from two sources namely thermal and hydro with Hwange Thermal Power Station and Kariba Hydro Power Station.
With industry operating between 25 percent and 30 percent capacity, Zimbabweâ€™s requirement for energy is estimated at 2 200MW. Energy demand is projected to grow to over 4000 MW in the next five years without hope that generation will match that rate.
Zambiaâ€™s energy demand is about 1,600 MW with a shortfall of 1,000 MW. The country, until recently, produced only 1000 MW, equivalent to its shortfall.
The BGHES project is therefore, a boost to efforts by the two countries to come out of the perennial darkness.
PATSON PHIRI, Lusaka