By Petronella Sibeene
Namibia and Angola have finally signed an agreement with the Kunene Consortium, marking the beginning of a feasibility study and the first phase of the development of the long-awaited Baynes Hydropower Station.
The signing ceremony took place yesterday, at the end of the 21st Permanent Joint Technical Commission (PJCT) on the Kunene River Basin.
The Baynes Hydropower Station, anticipated to have a generation capacity of 500 megawatts, will offer relief to the two countries and the entire southern Africa, which is facing serious power shortages.
According to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Joseph Iita, the feasibility study, to last 18 months, will determine the size and commissioning date of the Baynes Hydropower Station.
Since 1990, the two governments mandated the PJTC to investigate the possible development of a hydropower station downstream the lower Kunene River.
NamAng Consortium identified Epupa and Baynes as potential sites for this development.
However, the planned hydroelectric project at the Epupa Falls on the Kunene River was plunged in controversy for nearly a decade.
Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy, Bernard Esau, said Namibia has always favoured Epupa as a suitable site for the construction of a hydropower station, while Angola opted for Baynes.
And for years, the two countries have been involved in negotiations until 2005 and thus the signing of the agreement yesterday also brought an end to all uncertainty and confusion over the once controversial Epupa project.
Namibia’s preference for Epupa was based on the study findings of 1998 that technology to be used was proven, the rock conditions were known and good and that it has an active storage capacity of 7.8 billion cubic metres, which is four times the storage capacity at Baynes.
However, Baynes has less impact environmentally compared to Epupa and the evaporation is eight times higher at Epupa compared to Baynes.
At Baynes, the annual average speed of the Kunene River is 1,294 cubic metres water per second. The slowest speed recorded in history until now is only three cubic metres per second.
“Although it took longer than anticipated to reach consensus on the preferred site, the Namibian Government agreed in August 2005 to the recommendations to develop the Baynes instead of Epupa,” Esau said.
During the 19th Session of the Commission in July 2006, the two governments agreed on the appointment of a consortium consisting of four Brazilian firms to conduct the techno-economic study on Baynes.
The study to be conducted by the Kunene Consortium is divided into three phases and will take 18 months to complete at a cost of US$7 million. KFW will fund the project, Esau said.
“I am delighted to inform you that after nearly two years of negotiations, we are all satisfied and today marks the starting point of our official engagement with the Kunene Consortium,” Esau said.
Describing the signing of the agreement as a milestone, the deputy minister said the two governments would have to ensure that each side of the two countries clears landmines and any explosives that might still be in that area.
Meanwhile, Esau said apart from the agreement signed, the two countries, through PJTC, are tasked to oversee the further development of water resources of the Kunene Basin including water supply, irrigation, power development, flood control, reclamation and drainage, conservation of fish and wildlife and recreation and tourism.
The PJTC meeting between Namibia and Angola also looked at other aspects such as the completion of the Calueque Dam in southern Angola, from which water is pumped to Namibia, and the reconstruction and upgrading of the Gove Dam in Angola, which forms part of the Ruacana hydroelectric scheme.
During his State visit to Namibia last year, President of Angola Jose Eduardo dos Santos and President Hifikepunye Pohamba called for the speedy conclusion of the terms and references of the Baynes Hydropower Project, adding that the initiative will help the two countries cushion the impact of power shortages in SADC.
Also, a month ago Pohamba directed NamPower to come up with a project plan for a power plant that should be operational within the next three years.