Bolivia awards $1 billion hydroelectric project to two Chinese firms

LA PAZ (Reuters) - Bolivia’s government tapped two Chinese firms to construct a hydroelectric project in the eastern portion of the country, it said on Thursday, with an initial $1 billion financing coming from a credit from China’s Eximbank.

The award grants China Three Gorges Corp [CYTGP.UL] and China International Water & Electric with the responsibilities for engineering, construction, assemblage and other tasks for the Rositas hydroelectric project, which will seek to generate between 500 and 600 megawatts of power starting in 2024.

“We are confident that the best Chinese companies will be involved in this very important project for all Bolivians,” said Luis Sanchez, minister of hydrocarbons and energy.

Bolivia currently produces 1,500 megawatts of power annually, but its internal demand is just 1,300 megawatts. The country aims to export more than 8,000 megawatts beginning in 2025, and hopes to become South America’s leading energy powerhouse.

“Bolivia will generate more money with the sale of energy than with the sale of natural gas,” president Evo Morales said at the contract signing in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia’s largest city.

Reporting by Daniel Ramos; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Andrew Hay