A general view of the Walney Extension offshore wind farm operated by Orsted off the coast of Blackpool, Britain. File photo: REUTERS/PHIL NOBLE
A general view of the Walney Extension offshore wind farm operated by Orsted off the coast of Blackpool, Britain. File photo: REUTERS/PHIL NOBLE

Maputo/Johannesburg — Zimbabwe and Zambia chose General Electric (GE) and Power Construction of China to build a $4bn hydropower project straddling their border, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.

The 2,400MW Batoka Gorge plant has been planned for years by the two countires, both of which are struggling with electricity shortages after a drought curbed hydropower output. GE and Power China are in a consortium that was shortlisted in February to build the facility.

“Zambia and Zimbabwe have agreed on this project. We have all agreed that we give it to GE — China Power and GE together,” Mnangagwa said in an interview on Wednesday in Maputo, where he was attending a conference. “It’s critical that we move fast on this front because as we industrialise, we need electricity.”

While the project will address electricity shortages, it is on the same river — the Zambezi — that has left the Kariba hydropower dam downstream too empty to function at full capacity.

GE said in an e-mailed response to questions that the Zambezi River Authority, which manages power plants on the river, had said it would appoint a final developer for the project by September. As part of the consortium, GE would have a “material role in the development and execution of the project”, including the design and supply of hydropower technologies, it said.

Zambian energy minister Matthew Nkhuwa said he was not available to comment. The project will be based on a build-operate-transfer financing model and will not put any fiscal strain on the two nations’ governments, Nkhuwa said in February.

The $4bn cost of the project includes amounts for civil works, construction and power turbines, among other things, GE said on Thursday.

According to Nkhuwa, other shortlisted bidders included Salini Impregilo of Italy and a joint venture comprising China Three Gorges, China International Water and Electric, and China Gezhouba Group.

Bloomberg