Construction of the Batoka Gorge Hydroelectric Power Station is set to begin by year-end after the selection of the winning contractor in six months’ time.
An extraordinary Council of Ministers (COM) of the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) held in Zambia a fortnight ago agreed on an implementation roadmap.
The high-level meeting, which brought together finance and energy ministers from Zimbabwe and Zambia, also made a resolution to ask for request for proposals from the three shortlisted contractors — Salini Impregilo of Italy; a joint venture of China Three Gorges Corporation, China International and Water Electric Corporation and China Gezhouba Group Company Limited; and another consortium of US-based General Electric (GE) and Power Construction Corporation of China.
A request for proposals essentially requires companies to place bids for a project’s completion.
Nine contractors had initially expressed interest in the project.
The shortlisted contractors will be furnished with the relevant preparatory study reports — which include the Engineering Feasibility Study; the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA); and Legal and Financial Transaction Advisory Services (LFTA) — next month.
Energy and Power Development permanent secretary Engineer Gloria Magombo told The Sunday Mail last week that once negotiations with the contractor are completed, construction will begin in earnest.
She said: “We have been meeting as the Zambezi River Authority, looking at the progress on the implementation of the project and as you are aware, any project has developmental stages.
“The first stage is project preparation, where you do the feasibility studies, engineering studies and the environmental impact assessments, and that is the stage that we have been working on.
“This phase also comes with the procurement of the project developer.
“So the meeting we had in Zambia was to apprise the ministers from both countries, which is the Council of Ministers, where the ministers of energy, their finance counterparts, the attorney-generals and permanent secretaries from both countries meet with the Zambezi River Authority.
“The meeting was to apprise the principals on progress before they then made the decision to proceed with the projects.”
Some of the key preparatory works are expected by the end of this month.
Construction will only begin after the selection of the project developer by September this year.
“So we did the evaluation and it was agreed that now we go to the next stage, where they will go through request for proposals for the full bid for the final procurement of the project developer.
“For that to happen, they need the feasibility studies, the environmental studies to have been completed, and we expect the reports for these to come in March.
“With the reports coming in March, we should then issue the request for proposal in April, and we expect to be going into the appointment of the developer in August and go into negotiations by September.
“After that process of negotiation with the development partner, we then expect the partner to start moving to the next stage, which will now be construction and then commissioning,” said Eng Magombo.
Zimbabwe was represented at the high-level meeting by Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Jorum Gumbo and his Finance and Economic Development counterpart Professor Mthuli Ncube.
Zambia’s Minister of Energy Mathew Nkhuwa and Zambia’s Treasury chief Margaret Mwanakatwe represented their country.
Batoka will generate 2 400MW of electricity to be shared equally between the two countries.
The project is expected to create nearly 1 200 direct jobs and 552 indirect jobs.
Currently, the two neighbouring countries jointly own Kariba Dam, which produces 1 050MW for Zimbabwe and 1 080MW for Zambia.