The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) has made progress in arranging funding for the $5 billion Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme expected to generate 2400MW of power to be split equally between Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The two nations are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with lead arranger for resource mobilisation; the African Development Bank.
The project, to be situated about 60km downstream of the Victoria Falls on the mighty Zambezi River which separates the two countries, is expected to improve the two countries’ power supply, currently in deficit and also feed into the Southern African Power Pool. Both countries’ energy demands are forecast to more than double by 2035.
“A memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two states and the AfDB is soon to be executed.
“In meeting its mandate under the MoU, the AfDB will work with the two Governments, the Authority, the World Bank and other co-operating partners and stakeholder institutions to secure the required funding to implement the project,” ZRA said in emailed responses to the Business Weekly.
This comes amid reports a Chinese firm linked to the financing and construction of the Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme is in discussions with American conglomerate General Electric (GE) for a possible partnership on the mega project.
Energy and Power Development Minister Ambassador Simon Khaya Moyo last week confirmed GE had set sights on Batoka and was discussing with a Chinese company to combine forces although he indicated formal discussions with Government were yet to take off.
Minister Khaya Moyo’s remarks came after GE was in February quoted saying it wants to give Zimbabwe financial and technical support, singling out the Batoka project as a priority area as well as mini hydro-power stations across the country.
ZRA said it is yet to receive a request for formal discussions from GE, adding awarding of tenders was yet to take place.
“The preparatory studies (EFS, ESIA and LFTAS) are yet to be completed to pave way for actual project implementation. The process to award any tenders for actual implementation of the project will only take place once the studies are completed and the funds required for the actual construction works are secured. At this stage, tenders for the actual works will then be advertised to subsequently select contractors to be awarded contracts for the actual construction works for the project,” ZRA said.
ZRA said it expects environmental and social impact assessment studies (ESIA) on the $3 billion worth 12000MW to be jointly done by Zambia and Zimbabwe to be completed by December this year and mark a new implementation phase.
According to ZRA, once the ongoing process is concluded, the ESIA report will then be disclosed to the public to enable them to provide feedback on the adequacy of the proposed mitigation measures which will be used to update and finalize the report.
Preparatory studies for the implementation of the project are being financed through a multi-donor trust fund known as the Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) which is managed by the World Bank.
The preparatory studies which are being undertaken by independent consultants contracted by Zambezi River Authority include an engineering feasibility studies being undertaken by Studio Pietrangeli (SP) of Italy, environmental and social impact assessment studies being undertaken by Environmental Resources Management (ERM) of South Africa and legal and financial transaction advisory services being undertaken by Ernst & Young (EY) of South Africa.
To date, the ESIA Studies Consultant (ERM) has prepared the draft ESIA Report and the associated Environmental & Social Management Plan (ESMP) which are still under review by the Authority and the relevant Stakeholders.
In terms of progress on review of the studies, ZRA said to date, the EFS consultant has completed the draft options assessment report for the project which saw the selection of a 181m high dam and two surface power stations which will each generate 1200MW giving a total of 2400MW for the project.
“The consultant is in the process of updating the draft EFS Report,” said ZRA.