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GE wins bid to build $4 billion Zambia-Zimbabwe hydro plant

Highlights

  • Batoka Gorge dam will straddle the two nations’ borders
  • Zambia and Zimbabwe are grappling with electricity shortages

Zimbabwe and Zambia chose General Electric Co. and Power Construction Corp. of China to build a $4 billion hydropower project straddling their border, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said.

The 2,400-megawatt Batoka Gorge plant has been planned for years by the two southern African nations, both of which are struggling with electricity shortages after a drought curbed hydropower output. General Electric 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 Wednesday in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, where he was attending a conference. “It’s critical that we move fast on that front because it’s necessary that as we industrialize that we need electricity.”

While the project will address electricity shortages, it’s 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 emailed 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.

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Zambian Energy Minister Matthew Nkhuwa said he wasn’t available to comment. The project will be based on a build-operate-transfer financing model and won’t put any fiscal strain on the two nations’ governments, Nkhuwa said in February.

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The $4 billion cost of the project includes amounts for civil works, construction and power turbines, among other things, GE said on Thursday. The African Development Bank said in September it has begun mobilizing funds for the plant.

Other bidders that had been shortlisted included Salini Impregilo SpA of Italy and a joint venture comprising China Three Gorges Corp., China International Water & Electric Corp. and China Gezhouba Group Co., according to Nkhuwa.

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