The Namibian government is at loggerheads with Angola over the site of a proposed new hydropower project. Since completion of a feasibility study last year, the two governments have not been able to agree where the plant should be built.

The Namibian government favours a site 7 km downstream from the Epupa Falls. However, Angola prefers Baynes, 40 km downstream from the falls. If the matter cannot be resolved, it is to be referred to the presidents of the two countries for arbitration.

The project at Epupa will cost $539 million to complete. It will displace 700 people from Himba communities around the site and destroy ancestral graves. The Baynes scheme has a price tag of $551 million, is considered environmentally less disruptive but is also smaller. The operation of the Baynes project will also depend to an extent of the Gove dam which had been damaged during the civil war in Angola and would have to be repaired too.

Meanwhile, the Namibian government is examining the prospects for solar energy and is trying to revive the stalled Kudu gas project. The $3 billion scheme, which involved development of a gas field and the construction of a power plant in Namibia was stalled when South African utility Eskom withdrew from the project.

Under the original plan, a power plant was to be built in Namibia and gas exported to South Africa. The latest suggestion for Kudu involves building two power plants, one in Namibia and one in South Africa.

Previously, the Namibian power plant was to have been operational by 2001. However it is likely to be at least three years before the gas field can become operational, even if the new scheme attracts sufficient investment.