GE, PowerChina Batoka Hydro Project on Zambia-Zimbabwe Border Delayed

HARARE Bloomberg) — The developers of a $4 billion hydropower plant on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border delayed the project until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pre-construction work on the Batoka Gorge project has been suspended for several months because of the virus and funding is still being secured, Zambezi River Authority spokesman Fitzgerald Muchindu said in an emailed response to questions. Work on the 2,400-megawatt facility had been scheduled to start in 2020.

“The authority and the developer are doing everything possible to expedite the outstanding pre-construction activities with a view to commence construction works at the earliest possible time,” Muchindu said in emailed responses to questions. “Construction activities are currently projected to commence towards the end of 2022.”

Zimbabwe and Zambia in 2019 chose General Electric Co. and Power Construction Corp. of China to build the plant on the Zambezi River. Both southern African nations struggle with electricity shortages because of poorly maintained equipment and droughts that curb output at existing hydropower facilities on the river.

In February, the two nations delayed planned upgrades to Kariba Dam, their main source of electricity.

Talks are under way with domestic pension funds in Zambia and Zimbabwe to raise capital for the project, Muchindu said.

“These discussions will be firmed upon once the optimization of the scheme, which will inform the actual projects, is completed,” he said, without providing further details.

Trade and Development Bank, a Bujumbura, Burundi-based multilateral lender, has been appointed as the lead arranger for financing on the project, he said.

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