Zambia and Zimbabwe want the African Development Bank (AfDB) to help revamp plans for the joint development 2,400MW Batoka Hydropower Scheme after General Electric and China’s Power Construction Corporation failed to offer financing due to the heavy indebtedness of the two countries.
And as Southern Africa faces power shortages, Zambia says it will not stop power exports despite its own deficit which could go up to six hours a day starting January 2023.
While a consortium led by China’s Power Construction Corporation and US firm General Electric won a bid to build the hydropower station in 2019, Zambia and Zimbabwe recently turned to the African Development Bank (AfDB) to help revamp plans for the joint development of the 2,400MW Batoka Hydropower Scheme.
This is a big blow to two countries that have been looking at the project as a lifeline to their perennial power problems. Currently the two countries are experiencing between 8-15 hours of load shedding and 20 hours on some days.
“We requested them to give away 180MW but after negotiations we went down to 110MW,” the Zambia Electricity Supply Company (ZESCO) chair Vickson Ncube said, referring to mining companies in Africa’s second-largest copper producer.
Last week, Zesco doubled the number of hours it cut supply to domestic customers to 12 hours from six hours daily as low water levels in the lake Kariba threatened power generation.
In Zimbabwe with many oncoming industry developments, this means that the country will have to increase energy production by four to five fold in order to meet these requirements or the country will have to fork out even more foreign currency to energy imports yet it is targeting at preserving the hard earned foreign currency.
Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) has said the mining industry alone has put in applications for an additional 2 100MW by 2025 to support new projects and expansion.
“The increase in mining industry demand is also inducing other significant industrial loads,” according to ZESA executive chairman Sydney Gata.
A source in the power utility said they were facing challenges with old machinery which keeps breaking down and warned that the country might face another blackout as was experienced during this week if power generation remains poor.
This means that even when the 600MW from Hwange eventually comes on stream, Zimbabwe will still face a power deficit over the next few years – Harare