Stiegler`s Gorge Hydro Electric Power Station is a planned 2,100 megawatts (MW) hydroelectric dam expected to occupy an over 1,350 square kilometer stretch in the Selous Game Reserve in Morogoro.
The Stiegler`s Gorge Power Plant is argued to be the least cost option for Tanzania in terms of the investment required for average kilowatt hour generated ($/kWh) and is expected to be the largest and fourth largest power station in Tanzania and Africa respectively with annual power consumption capacity of 5920 gigawatt hours (GWh).
Arab Contractors Limited of Egypt emerged victor in the bid and is expected to inject Tsh.6.5 trillion ($ 2.9 billion) with government contributing the rest to arrive at the Tsh.8.2 trillion ($3.6 billion) total estimated cost with construction expected to be completed within 36 months` time.
Tanzania’s power output
Stiegler`s Gorge Hydro Power project is expected to increase Tanzania` s power output by 2,100 megawatts making total installed capacity of electricity generation arrive at 5,293 megawatts thus reducing on frequent power shortages and crippling load-shedding in the country. Tanzania`s installed electric power production capacity currently stands at 1,513.3 MW while the actual demand is 1,400 MW. Electricity production increased due to the recently launched Tsh.813 billion ($353.7 million) Kinyerezi II plant with a 240 MW capacity in the outskirts of Dar es Salaam whose 85 per cent construction cost was funded by Japan`s Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and Japan Bank for International Cooperation while the Tanzanian government covered the remaining 15 per cent amounting to Tsh.118 billion ($51.6 million).
Other Hydro Power projects
Two other projects due to be completed in Kinyerezi will generate 600 MW using natural gas, and so all together with the Stiegler`s Gorge Project, Kinyerezi II plant and other energy projects in Mtwara will bring the total installed electricity generation capacity to 5,293.3 MW. This comes in line to support the fifth phase government`s industrialization policy to gear Tanzania towards achieving a middle-income economy status by 2025 as per the 2016/17 – 2020/21 Five Year Plan.
The power station is expected to fetch the government revenue from electricity exports to neighboring Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda citing the recent report from the World Bank tracking global achievements in sustainable energy for all. The report puts electricity accessibility in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi at 26.7 per cent, 29.37 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively thus exhibiting a huge critical energy void that Tanzania needs to exploit. Burundi market stands as the most lucrative since only 1.8 per cent (25,000 customers) of the population have access to power with Bujumbura (capital city) accounting for 95 per cent consumption of the country`s electricity.
The Stiegler`s Gorge dam is expected to serve multi-purpose functions including flood control, irrigation and urban water supply as cited by the Rufiji Basin Development Authority (RUBADA) and various government ministries. The dam reservoir is expected to regulate water flow and thus preventing destructive downstream flooding such as in 1968 and 2002 that caused household and crop destruction, resulting in river channel changes and food aid. Furthermore, the dam is expected to create an 80,000 hectare flood plain downstream which will support crop production of approximated 450,000 tonnes of paddy, 7,000 tonnes of maize, 3,000 tonnes of cotton and some vegetables. The dam also has a capacity to supply Dar es Salaam (190 km) and Morogoro (110 km) with sanitation water.
The government of Tanzania has been considering establishing this power station since the 1960s during Mwalimu Nyerere`s tenure. Dating back to colonial expeditions, the dam seems to have been first conceived by an engineer called Stiegler who planned to build a bridge and dam over the gorge. He was killed in 1907 by an elephant, reputedly falling into the gorge then named after him. Regular studies of the river and development projects along it continued from the 1900s-1960s. In 1961, after a decade of discussion and studies, the Food and Agriculture Organization published a report specifically considering the project, but primarily for irrigation. This was eventually taken on by the Norwegian Development Agency (NORAD) who carried out studies during the 1970s primarily focused on the dam as a hydropower project which included relatively detailed feasibility, design and environmental studies.
Tanzania’s development and industrialization
Nyerere was a particular proponent of the project, seeing it as a potential foundation for the country’s development and industrialization. This has given the project a high status for many in the ruling CCM party as a project with nation-building potential. Officials and later Nyerere, visited the Tennessee Valley Corporation, an institution premised on top-down development through dam building. This inspired the Rufiji Basin Development Agency (RUBADA) in 1975 which had the Stiegler’s Gorge dam at the heart of its mission. However, once the studies were completed in the 1980s, the project was not taken on by any financier, with the World Bank in particular rejecting the project. Therefore, the Stiegler’s Gorge Dam was effectively shelved from the mid-1980s until August 2017 when the fifth phase government advertised for bids to construct this dam.