Tanzania starts construction of the Stiegler's Gorge Power Generation Project in July, hoping to more than double its electricity production capacity in the next three years as part of its plans to become electricity sufficient and export the surplus.
The plant will produce 2,100MW. The dam on the Rufiji River in the Selous Game Reserve will be the largest in the country.
Tanzania recently launched the $353.7 million Kinyerezi II power plant with an installed capacity of 240MW.
The plant, on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, was built by Japanese firms Sumitomo Corporation, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems and Toshiba Plant Systems.
Energy Minister Dr Medard Kalemani said the government hopes to complete two more projects in Kinyerezi to generate 600MW using natural gas.
The Stiegler's Gorge power project announcement, however, triggered opposition from environmental conservationists and one legislator.
The lobbies have maintained that a power plant inside the Selous Game Reverve, a World Heritage site, will destroy the habitat.
The conservationists fear that Selous could be removed from the list of areas listed by the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organisation (Unesco) should the Tanzania government proceed to build a mega-hydropower project inside the park.
"We want the government to carry out an environmental impact assessment to ensure that no negative impact would be observed after building the hydropower project inside Selous," Asukile Kajuni, a conservationist, told The EastAfrican.
Meanwhile, the MP for Mtama constituency in the gas-rich Lindi region, Nape Nnauye, criticised the government's investment in the project at the expense of gas projects.
Mr Nnauye told Parliament that Tanzania was abandoning gas power generation after launching the Rufiji River one, oblivious to the investment already sunk into natural gas exploration and drilling in the south.
The Kinyerezi II plant was funded by Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and Japan Bank for International Cooperation to the tune of $292 million.
Tanzania met 15 per cent of the cost, amounting to $51.6 million. Japans' Nippon Export and Investment Insurance covered the political and commercial risks of the loan.
In December, the Kinyerezi project started receiving gas, allowing for the commissioning of the first two of six gas turbines to the national grid.
The plant is expected to generate almost 15 per cent of the country's total capacity by the end of this year, fuelled by natural gas piped from Mnazi Bay.
It will add 36 million standard cubic feet (scf) to meet the national daily gas demand. Last year, state-owned Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation said that the domestic demand for natural gas had more than doubled between 2016 and 2017, from a daily demand of 145 million scf in 2016 to 300 million scf last year.
Tanzania has been banking on the development of its vast gas find into electricity to increase its generating capacity.
This will provide it a dedicated power line for the SGR network. Power generation capacity is at about 1,500 MW, against a demand of 1,352 MW.
Dr Kalemani said Stiegler's, the remaining phases of Kinyerezi and other energy projects in Mtwara will produce 3,780MW for Tanzania, bringing its total installed electricity generation capacity to 5,293.3MW.