Batoka power project gathers momentum

HARARE - Zimbabwe is this week expected to formally kick start negotiations with Zambia for the construction of a joint 1 600 megawatts (MW) Batoka Gorge hydro-electric power project, Energy minister Mangoma said.

He told delegates at the just- ended Zimbuild infrastructure finance summit that the two countries are scheduled to put together expressions of interest as they seek to develop and finalise terms of the joint venture.

“By the time we get to December we want to be very clear in which direction we are going and on this we are going on a Built and Operate Transfer (Bot) basis,” said Mangoma.

“We are making the strides that are necessary there, “added Mangoma.

 He emphasised that issues in the power generation sector were now requiring a lot more action and implementation because the thinking has already been done.

This follows Zesa Holdings (Zesa) chief executive Josh Chifamba’s recent remarks that the two countries had agreed to commence work on the Batoka Gorge hydro-electric project which is set for completion in 2019 after Zimbabwe agreed to expunge its $71 million legacy debt with Zambia by end of March 2014.

Mangoma said the country has firm plans to increase power generation capacity to 20 000 megawatts in order to achieve the dream of a $100 billion economy by 2040.

The energy minister emphasised that increasing power generation is a national priority as it is expected to support the country’s infrastructure and economic development.

 “To be able to achieve it and make it a reality before 2040 we should have 20 000 megawatts of power and indeed we are on our way to do it,” said Mangoma.

He said government has put in place a legal framework that enables independent power suppliers as well as consumers to complement government’s efforts to boost power supply.

“We have got an independent regulator and a law that now caters for independent power producers and we also have got a law that allows for independent power consumers.

“This is the most progressive framework that you can ever find in Africa,” said Mangoma, adding that potential investors were assured of a profitable tariff regime.

The minister’s statement follows similar remarks by Zimbabwe energy regulatory authority chairperson Canada Malunga that the country’s $100 billion economic growth targets would only be attainable if the energy sector grows its capacity to generate.

Malunga however said, government had ability to reach 10 00 MW between now and 2040.

Zimbabwe now has 15 registered independent power producers, which produce a combined 500MW or more-one of the largest being Triangle with a 35 MW production capacity.

The country is currently facing acute power shortages, with the state-owned power producer Zesa Holdings saying production averages 1 400 (MW) against rising demand of  2 200MW.

Mangoma said government was, compelled to expand Kariba and Hwange power stations with tenders having already gone out for the exploration and quantification of coal bed methane.

“We are looking at putting up a gas fired plant in Lupane….we should be able to start temporary generation next year so that we increase our power generation capacity.

“If turns out the gas is not there then that is a different matter altogether, but preliminary indications are that there is sufficient gas that could support 500 megawatts power plant and this is something that we are now working on,” said Mangoma.

In order to augment supply of power countrywide to cope with ever increasing demand, Mangoma said that negotiations are underway with potential suppliers for the construction of a 100 megawatts solar plant in Gwanda.

“Again if we conclude our negotiations we will be able to have 100 megawatts of solar energy by next year, probably by June,” said Mangoma.

Mangoma pointed out that the government has already signed memorandum of understanding with two Chinese companies for the development of 1 000 megawatts coal plant and this would take about three to four years to complete development.

Mangoma noted that although Zesa was owed $660 million from various consumers, the essence of funding projects was to improve the cash flow position of Zesa in order to improve credit ratings adding that is the reason why pre-paid meters were introduced to improve revenues and also avoid charges based on estimates.

“What we are doing is essentially to change our credit ratings to be able to allow us to do a number of things, but for those who can take it at face value we will be able to expand Kariba without borrowing anyone, purely with money owed by debtors we have now,” said Mangoma. - Kudzai Chawafambira

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