Tugela River hydro project in jeopardy

2014-01-08 00:00

A PROPOSED R1,6 billion hydro-plant to be built on the Tugela River is on hold over concerns that another development may be constructed in the same place.

Mulilo Renewable Energy, who were initially set on taking advantage of the state’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Programme (REIPPP), withdrew from the project late last year.

Part of the insecurity emanates from a proposed dam project being touted by President Jacob Zuma’s non-profit organisation Masibambisane Rural Development Initiative with the help of a Zimbabwean-based company.

Mulilo engineer Neil Theron said the hydro-plant “would be fantastic for the area” and would have contributed to the economic growth of the region.

“We have got all the necessary accreditations. We have done the legwork. Much of our decision rests on the high construction cost and low margins, but there was uncertainty surrounding the future of the Tugela River [with the construction of the MRDI dams].

“The Department of Water Affairs could not give us an assurance of water flow, which is crucial to undertaking the project,” he said.

He said the hydro project, which would generate 60MW, has not been shelved.

In September, The Witness reported that the Zimbabwe-based family-owned Cochrane Group had enlisted the help of Zuma’s farming NGO in order to assist the group in building eight dams — split equally between the Tugela River and the Tsitsa Falls River in the Eastern Cape — generating a combined 500 MW of energy.

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