Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa vowed last week to push ahead with the 1,600-MW Batoka Gorge hydropower plant (HPP) on the Zambezi River. The US$4.5 billion project will be located 50 km downstream of the Victoria Falls and will be developed in partnership with the Zambian government.
During a campaign rally ahead of the July 30 election, Mnangagwa said feasibility studies had been completed, with three companies submitting tenders for the project. Mnangagwa added a technical meeting between experts from the two countries would be held in the near future.
The dam was first proposed in the 1970s, with an engineering assessment in 2014 reviving the project. According to the Zambezi River Authority, which is jointly owned by Zimbabwe and Zambia, the African Development Bank (AfDB) will provide support advising on raising funds for the project. Financial closure is anticipated to be reached by the end of the year.
The HPP will be a major boost to the power supply of both countries and is expected turn Zimbabwe into a regional power exporter. At present, Zimbabwe produces 1,200 MW of electricity against demand of 1,400 MW. The country relies on neighbouring South Africa and Mozambique to plug its power shortfall.
The news comes just over a week after Mnangagwa commissioned construction of units 7 and 8 at the Hwange thermal power plant (TPP). The US$1.5 billion project is being undertaken by Chinese firm Sinohydro. It will add 600 MW to Zimbabwe’s national grid and is expected to be completed in 42 months.
In what has been a transformative year for Zimbabwe’s power generation capacity, the country has also benefited from the completion of the Kariba South HPP in March. Expansion work on the project was also carried out by Sinohydro and involved the addition of two new 150-MW turbines. The four-year project cost US$533 million.
Over the past decade Zimbabwe has been plagued by power shortages owing to ageing power plants and equipment. Power supply disruptions have crippled industrial output, with some businesses being forced to scale down operations.