Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 25, September 2009
Batoka hydro power station to light up southern Africa
by Kizito Sikuka

Zambia and Zimbabwe are in the final stages of planning for construction of the long-awaited Batoka Gorge hydropower station.

Batoka Gorge is located about 50km downstream of the mighty Victoria Falls between the two countries.

When operational, the US$2.4 billion plant has the capacity to produce up to 1,600 Megawatts (MW), enough electricity to make a significant contribution towards helping both countries as well as the entire Southern African Development Community (SADC) to meet its energy needs.

According to the deal, Zambia and Zimbabwe will share the power equally, but since the two countries are members of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) much of the electricity will also be fed into the regional power grid.

This will allow the installed capacity at the planned station to be realized across the SADC region. All mainland SADC Member States with the exception of Angola, Malawi and Tanzania, are interconnected through SAPP.

The Zambezi Watercourse Commission, which manages the Zambezi River on which the Batoka Gorge power plant will be built, approved the project a few years ago.

The Batoka hydro station is identified as one of the most attractive projects in the region, which has great capacity to help southern Africa exploit the huge hydro potential of the Zambezi River.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of an energy conference held in Harare, Zimbabwe, in early September, the chief executive officer of Zimbabwe’s national power utility, Ben Rafemoyo, revealed that a lot of ground has been covered to begin work on the hydro power station.

He said it was pleasing to note that the Zambian and Zimbabwean governments have made great strides in addressing some of the issues that were holding back the project.

Limited funding and unequal priority, particularly on the part of Zambia, which does not have the acute power supply shortfall being experienced by its neighbour, have been identified as some of the major stumbling blocks in making the Batoka Gorge power plant a reality.

Nevertheless, both countries are determined to resolve the challenges and harness the hydro power from the Zambezi River, which can also be tapped on various sites that include the Devils Gorge, Victoria Falls South and the Mutapa Gorge.

The Devils Gorge and Victoria Falls South projects have the capacity to produce about 1,200 MW and 390 MW respectively. The Mutapa Gorge has potential to generate about 1,085 MW.

Said Engineer Rafemoyo, "A number of meetings are on-going on the Batoka Gorge project. At the government to government level both countries have since resolved some of the issues and we now hope the project will see the light of day soon."

Once the two governments finalize the deal, Zesa Holdings in Zimbabwe and its Zambian counterpart Zesco will lead in the implementation process.

The Batoka Gorge hydro station, which has been on the pipeline for many years, is expected to be completed within five to six years.

Rafemoyo highlighted the need to implement the project as it has great potential to address some of the energy woes facing southern Africa.

The project is also environmentally friendly as it uses hydro energy. Hydro power is regarded as one of the most reliable and clean forms of power that does not pollute the atmosphere compared to other forms such as thermal.

"This is a must project to embark on," the Zesa Holdings chief said, adding that cross-border projects are key to regional growth and integration.

Southern Africa is experiencing a crippling energy situation due to its fast expanding economy, lack of investment in the sector as well as failure by member states to implement agreed generation projects on time.

Some of the projects that are behind schedule include the US$7 billion Inga 3 in the Democratic Republic of Congo that has the capacity to produce up to 4,300 MW.

This is almost 10 percent of SAPP membership’s current power consumption whose combined peak demand for 2008 was 43,000 MW, albeit suppressed due to shortages.

Refurbishment of the whole Inga dam has the potential to produce about 40,000 MW, enough electricity to meet the current power needs for SADC. Southern African News Features offers a reliable source of regional information and analysis on the Southern African Development Community, and is provided as a service to the SADC region.

This article may be reproduced with credit to the author and publisher.

SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985

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