Batoka to boost SADC power supply
By Rumbidzayi Zinyuke
SOUTHERN African countries are set to benefit immensely from the development of the proposed Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme (BGHES) which is expected to boost power supply in the region and reduce a power deficit that has been the bane of most nations for almost a decade now.
The project is expected to add 2400 MW on the grid for Zimbabwe and Zambia that will be shared equally.
Speaking at a conference hosted by the two countries in Livingstone, Zambia, last week to source funding for the $4 billion project, Zimbabwe’s Energy and Power Development minister Dr Samuel Undenge said the project is a critical project for the region and the continent as a whole.
“The Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme is a critical regional as well as continental project. It is no secret that Africa, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, has the lowest electrification rate as well as per capita electricity consumption in the world. A recent World Bank report states that only 35 percent of households in this region have access to electricity,” Undenge said.
Undenge said the BGHES is one of the regional priority projects as espoused by the AfDB Light Africa Programme and NEPAD’s Priority Infrastructure Development programme.
The project could also help the region achieve goals set in the Industrialisation Strategy which was recently endorsed by member states.
The problem that has affected most SADC economies is that governments have continuously failed to adequately invest in the power sector for decades pushing demand to outstrip supply.
Analysts argue that the load-shedding and power rationing that followed crippled economic growth for most countries in the region.
As Finance and Economic Infrastructure Development minister Patrick Chinamasa rightly said: “Increasing energy generation capacity is, therefore, not a matter of political preference; it makes pure economic sense as shortage of electricity undermines efforts to achieve more rapid economic development for both our countries.”
SADC currently has an installed generation capacity of 58,000 MW but at the moment, only 47,000MW is operating against a demand of around 53,000MW giving an operational deficit of around 6,000MW. And the Batoka project could reduce this deficit, albeit as part of other power generating projects that are yet to be implemented.
These include the Grand Inga Falls project on the Congo River that has stalled for more than a decade. The Grand Inga has the potential to generate more than 40 000 megawatts and supply most of the SADC countries.
But there is renewed hope that the Batoka power project could still play a major role in the alleviation of the energy situation, especially considering the significant number of investors that expressed their desire to fund the project.
The lead financial arranger, African Development Bank, is planning to invest $2 billion in energy projects in Africa by 2020 and says it expects to channel some of the funds towards BGHES.
The bank’s vice president of the Power, Energy, Climate and Green Growth cluster, Amadou Hott, said the provision of sufficient, reliable and affordable electricity to Africa is the first priority of the bank.
“The target of the new deals for Africa for a universal access to electricity by 2025 requires the implementation of landmark and transformative regional projects such as the Batoka. The new deal is meant to address the persistent lack of electricity in African countries,” he said.
He said the bank has been working with Zambia and Zimbabwe on major energy projects and is committed to ensuring that the two countries address the energy crisis.
The BGHES will be developed under the auspices of the Zambezi River Authority, a bi-national organisation mandated to operate, monitor, and maintain the Kariba Complex as well as exploit the full potential of the Zambezi River.