ZRA’s 1,600-MW Batoka Gorge hydroelectric project progressing with ZESA debt repayments

Debts being paid to Zambia from the state-owned Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) should help pave the way toward construction of the 1,600-MW Batoka Gorge hydroelectric project, sources have reported.

The US$3 billion Batoka Gorge hydro plant is being developed between Victoria Falls and Lake Victoria by the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), which is jointly owned by Zimbabwe and Zambia.

HydroWorld.com reported in January that ZRA was seeking expressions of interest in the project’s development and construction on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis, though Zimbabwe’s previous $70 million of Zambian debt had made the Batoka Gorge’s future shaky.

ZESA Chief Executive Elijah Chifamba told a parliamentary committee that the utility will have paid Zambia $40 million by the end of March, however, allowing development of the project to proceed.

“Zambians needed to see first that we were committed to settling that debt and to demonstrate that we are bona-fide partners before they could actually enter into the Batoka project,” Chifamba said. “Because we have done so, that has unlocked the project.”

Development of Batoka Gorge is crucial for Zimbabwe, whose industries have already been crippled by a lack of available power and load shedding.

A contract signed between the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) and China’s Sino Hydro in December 2012 will also help, however, as it will allow for the expansion of the 300-MW Kariba hydroelectric project to 750 MW.

ZESA has also announced a plan to increase the amount of power it purchases from Mozambique’s 2,040-MW Cahora Bassa hydroelectric plant.

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