Windhoek - Namibia and Angola are yet to make a breakthrough in constructing a power project earmarked to produce 600 MW at an estimated cost of US$1.2 billion.
The Baynes Hydropower project is situated along the Cunene River, 200 km downstream of Ruacana at the border separating the two countries.
The project, which was mooted 20 years ago, has failed to get off the ground and despite Namibian President Hage Geingob’s efforts to breathe new life into the project earlier this year, the plan appears not to be moving forward.
While documents seen by The Southern Times show that a feasibility study was already conducted, Namibia’s Minister of Mines and Energy, Tom Alweendo, says the feasibility is only underway.
“What the President was referring to is the proposed Baynes hydro project to be developed jointly by Namibia and Angola. The feasibility study for this project is currently underway. The funding model has not yet been agreed upon. This will be known only after the feasibility study is completed,” he says.
The project is a partnership between Namibia Power Corporation (NamPower) and Rede Nacional de Transporte de Electricidade of Angola, who are working with the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) to connect the countries’ transmission systems.
NamPower documents indicate that the project was supposed to start in 2014 and finished by 2020. Baynes was, however, only predicted to start feeding power into the grid towards the end of the decade.
The Southern Times understands that the project’s initial studies were conducted between 1995 and 1998.
Apart from the obvious power project, the plan also includes the construction of a 1.3 km overflow canal or spillway to prevent the dam from overtopping, which is required for the protection of the dam wall.
The hydropower station was also expected to connect the border of the two countries. Should it eventually go ahead, the dam wall itself will form a bridge between Angola and Namibia.
Information shows that the Baynes Hydropower Project was initiated after the Firm Power Contract (FPC) with South Africa’s power utility, Eskom expired in 2005 and could not be renewed due to a critical power shortage faced in South Africa at the time.
Imports became significantly more expensive, especially during peak hours and consequently both the Angolan and Namibian governments agreed to study the Baynes option further.
The Permanent Joint Technical Commission (PJTC) appointed the Cunene Consortium (CC) to perform a Techno-economic Feasibility Study (TEFS) on the Baynes Hydropower Project, and Environmental Resources Management (ERM), to independently conduct the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), in parallel and in close consultation with the techno-economic study.
Studies of the three site alternatives for water levels 580, 560 and 540 metres above medium sea level (mamsl) has been concluded, which means that for the maximum level of 580 mamsl, the dam level will only reach the foot of the Epupa Falls.
Further information says the CC has also presented a positive outcome of the preliminary findings of Phase three of the Techno-Economic Feasibility Study.
The CC deliberated on the Draft Bi-lateral Water Use Agreement on the Cunene River, which deals with issues such as the establishment of a Bi-National River Authority, the establishment of the Baynes Hydropower Company, concessionary agreements between Angola and Namibia with the Baynes Hydropower Company for the development, operation and maintenance of the power station.
It is envisaged that the Baynes mid-merit/peaking power station’s capacity would be 600 MW, which will be shared equally by Namibia and Angola.
Like Ruacana Power Station, the new dam will function as a mid-merit peaking station, so that NamPower can avoid buying imported power during peak hours.
During the wet season the Baynes Power Station is predicted to run at full capacity, while during the dry season the generators will generate at maximum during mid-merit/peak periods only whilst 71 MW would be generated during the off-peak periods.
NamPower says hydropower needs specific mention as a renewable source of energy and traditionally the only contribution to greenhouse gasses by hydropower projects are from plants decaying within the dam basin.
The company further said the Baynes Hydropower station is a very valuable generation asset that has the potential of supplying Namibia and Angola with reliable, clean electricity for generations to come, making the estimated investment of US$1.2 billion well worth it.
“This is a vital undertaking which requires impetus in order to ensure that the energy requirements for our industrial drive are put in place and secured. The investigation is expected to highlight the impact of the transmission interconnection on the regional networks and consider the integration of the Baynes Hydropower Plant into the two networks,” Geingob said after meeting Angolan President João Lourenço in Windhoek earlier this year.