ZAMBIA and Zimbabwe have picked the African Development Bank (AfDB) as lead financial advisers for the construction of the 2,400-megawatt Batoka Gorge hydro-power project that’s expected to cost $4 billion.
The two southern African nations have been hit by severe power shortages as years of under-investment are made worse by low water levels at the Kariba dam hydro-power station that they each rely on for about half of total supplies.
The Batoka Gorge is another act in Africa’s dam race, with several countries working or planning big hydro-power (and some solar) projects.
A $1 billion hydroelectric dam on Cameroon’s Nachtigal River will be ready by 2020, adding over 30% to the country’s hydropower capacity.
The dam will have capacity to produce 420 megawatts of electricity.
Cameroon currently produces about 1,200 MW from hydropower. According to the water and energy ministry, the country needs 3,000 MW of electricity to support economic growth of 9.5% from 2018.
Togo and Benin, for their part, are working on a $445 million in Aplahoue, a town 150 kilometres north-west of Cotonou, Benin’s economic capital.
IN THE CONGO
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, China’s Sinohydro and China Railway Group are financing a $660 million hydroelectric plant in Busanga, in the central African nation’s southeastern region.
Congo is Africa’s largest miner of copper and the 240 megawatt dam in the town of Busanga will power Sicomines, a nearby copper and cobalt mining joint venture between the Chinese companies and Congolese state miner Gecamines.
Sicomines is the mining side of a $6 billion minerals-for-infrastructure deal signed in 2007, under which Sinohydro and China Railway Group pledged to build $3 billion worth of infrastructure in return for a 68% stake in the mine.
Sicomines would require 170 MW from the Busanga dam to run at full capacity, while the remaining 70 MW would feed the national grid.
It is estimated construction of the dam could last four to five years, suggesting the earliest it could be operational is late 2020.
Meanwhile the big kahuna of African dams, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is over 70% complete.
Formerly known as the Millennium Dam , IT is a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia’s Benishangul-Gumuz Region, about 15 km east of the border with Sudan.
At 6,000 MW, the dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa when completed, as well as the 11th largest in the world. At a price tag of $6.4 billion, it is will also be one of the most expensive infrastructure ever on the continent. Construction began in April 2011, and is projected to be completed in July 2017.
MOROCCO GOES A DIFFERENT WAY
Other African countries like Djibouti and Morocco, however, are going in a very different direction in the energy push.
Earlier in the year Morocco opened the first phase of its Noor-Ouarzazate solar power station.
The $9 billion solar-power project that has been under construction since 2013, uses a vast arrays of mirrors, rather than the more widely used photovoltaic panels, to produce electricity from sunlight.
When it is finished in 2018, the Noor Solar Power station will cover more than 5,000 acres and have a generating capacity of 580MW, enough to meet the electricity needs of 1.1 million Moroccans, according to the World Bank, which is helping to fund the project.
By the end of next year it will become the third biggest solar farm in the world. It 243-metre tower will also be the tallest built structure in Africa.
Even with these investments, sub-Saharan Africa remains one of the most resource-rich and electricity-poor regions in the world.
Power demand is expected to grow at 6% a year, according to the World Bank, while installed generating capacity has increased less than 2% a year over the past two decades.
The World Bank estimates that, by 2040, the region will need 700 gigawatts of electricity capacity to meet demand — more than seven times what is currently installed.