THE Zambezi River Authority has invited bids for the construction of a 1 600 megawatts hydro power plant at the Batoka Gorge, the authority said yesterday. ZRA, a statutory body jointly owned by Zimbabwe and Zambia and responsible for the Zambezi River, said the contract would be awarded on a Built, Operate and Transfer basis.
"ZRA hereby invites expressions of interest from interested companies or consortia with experience in developing hydro projects on a Build, Operate Transfer basis," said ZRA.
All bids should be submitted by February 8 next year.
The proposed hydroelectric scheme is located on the Zambezi River, about 54km downstream of the Victoria Falls, across the boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The project involves the construction of a dam and a hydropower plant on the Zambezi River. Some studies have shown that the project may cost between US$2,8 billion and US$3 billion.
Once completed, the project will increase generation capacity and reduce reliance on electricity imports. Initial studies have shown that Batoka hydro scheme would turn Zimbabwe into a net exporter of power in the region.
The project would also improve the generation mix which is currently skewed in favour of coal fired plants.The Batoka hydro concept was conceived in 1972 out of a study instituted by the predecessor of Zambezi River Authority, (Central African Power Corporation).
The aim of the study was to identify possible power sources which the inter-governmental institution could develop to meet the power demands of Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The Batoka hydro scheme is among Zimbabwe's long-term plans to deal with power deficit. There is also Gokwe North project, with capacity to generate 1 400MW.
In the short to medium term, Zimbabwe is looking at increasing power generation at Kariba and Hwange power stations. Sino Hydro, a Chinese company, was contracted to undertake the expansion of Kariba Hydro at a cost of US$368 million.
The expansions will increase Kariba's capacity by 300MW. Bidders for Hwange Thermal are currently conducting commercial evaluation for the project. The availability of power remains the biggest challenge facing the economy, with negative effects on production and productivity across all sectors, including households.
This is also confirmed by the 2011 Enterprise Survey, which shows 47 percent of firms ranking erratic electricity supply as a severe constraint to business.
Growth in electricity is estimated at a 0,3 percent this year compared with 8 percent in 2011.
The generation capacity averaged 1 010MW against a target of 1085MW this year.
In 2013, electricity generation is expected to improve slightly by 1,9 percent due to re-powering of Bulawayo and Harare small thermal power stations and the rehabilitation of the existing Hwange Power Units, according to the Finance Ministry.