Batoka power project draws closer as Zim, Zambia shortlist contractors

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube with Zambian counterpart, Margaret Mwanakatwe, after the Zambezi River Authority Council of Ministers Meeting on the Batoka Gorge in Livingstone, Zambia (pic: Lusaka Times)

Zimbabwe and Zambia have moved closer towards construction of the Batoka Gorge hydro power station after shortlisting American, European and Chinese companies to build the 2400MW plant.

The Zambezi River Authority, jointly owned by the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe, shortlisted three developers; a consortium of General Electric of USA and Power Corporation of China, Salini Impregilo of Italy, and a joint venture comprising Three Gorges Corporation, China International and Water Electric Corporation, and the China Gezhouba Group.

The winning contractor will be announced by September, the authority said in a statement. The power plant will be built on the Zambezi River at a reported cost of over US$4 billion.

The decision was reached at a Wednesday meeting in Zambia between the Energy and Finance Ministers of Zimbabwe and Zambia; Zambia Energy Minister Matthews Nkhuwa, Zimbabwe Energy Minister Joram Gumbo, and Mthuli Ncube and Margaret Mwanakatwe, the respective Finance Ministers of Zimbabwe and Zambia.  

The ministers said the project would be on a Build-Operate-Transfer financing model and would not put any fiscal strain on the two governments. As a result, no sovereign guarantees would be needed.

Three preparatory studies – the engineering feasibility studies, the environmental and social impact assessment, and legal and financial transaction advisory services – would be completed within the first quarter of 2019.

The Batoka project was mooted in 1992, but was delayed by an impasse over colonia era debts and community resistance. The Batoka power plant is expected to take six years to complete but electricity generation should start in the third year.

In 2017, Salini Impregilo completed the construction of the US$300 million Tugwi-Mukosi project, the country’s largest in-land dam.