Maputo — The Mozambican government intends to speed up construction of the projected dam at Mphanda Nkuwa, on the Zambezi river, in Tete province, about 60 kilometres downstream from the existing dam at Cahora Bassa.
On Wednesday, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Max Tonela, swore into office the newly appointed director of the Mpbhanda Nkuwa Project Office, Carlos Yum, who will be in charge of a team that must conclude, within 18 months, the financial structuring of the initiative, budgeted at four billion US dollars.
According to a report in Thursday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias", 55 per cent of this sum is intended for the construction of the Mphanda Nkuwa power station, and the rest is for the new transmission line from Tete to Maputo.
"We can't talk about Mphanda Nkuwa without mentioning how the power will be transmitted from Tete to Maputo", said Tonela. "This is an infrastructure that will have an added role in commercial exchanges of electricity, in the framework of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP). The Mozambican electricity sector will have an increasingly prominent role to play in the energy balance of the region".
Carlos Yum said that the new office would have to recover and update all the studies made on Mphanda Nkuwa in the past, "which may prove valid for the bankability of the project, ensure the quality of development to attract the regional market, and ensue the lowest cost of energy for the national market in the medium and long term".
Yum hoped that, within the next two to three years, all the technical conditions could be established for the effective take-off of dam construction. Just the construction phase would take between five and seven years, he said, "and so we are talking about a medium to long term undertaking".
Mphanda Nkuwa will generate 1,500 megawatts, and the problem has always been to find a guaranteed client for such a large amount of power. The obvious customer is the South African electricity company Eskom, but Eskom has refused to commit itself to purchasing Mphanda Nkuwa power.
This is largely why the project has remained on the drawing board for decades, even though Mphanda Nkuwa will have a favourable lake-to-power ratio, and dam construction will displace relatively few people.