from DANIEL JONES in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
VICTORIA FALLS, (CAJ News) – THE expansion of Zimbabwe’s main thermal power station is behind schedule by a year because of the effects of the coronavirus and failure by government to release finances to the contractor.
These setbacks to the Hwange Thermal Power Station, the biggest and oldest such facility, have stalled efforts to increase electricity generation and reduce the energy import bill.
Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) which is undertaking a US$1,5 billion expansion of Units 7 and 8 at the facility bemoaned the challenges.
“We should be at 90.08 percent by now and Unit 7 should have started but we are only at 64,63 percent, with a delay of 258 days. Once completed, we envisage this project will reduce import bill as it is a key enabler for economic growth,” said ZPC engineer Forbes Chanakira, who is the expansion project manager.
He was speaking during a visit to the power station, where Sino Hydro is the contractor.
Construction of Hwange Thermal Power Station started in 1973 with commissioning being done between 1983 and 1986, with capacity to generate
The aging plant currently generates 60MW.
In 2014 government partnered Sino Hydro Mauritius to expand Units 7 and 8 and increase production.
Over the years, Zimbabweans endured long hours of load shedding as the country struggled to supply electricity and compensated with imports from Mozambique and South Africa, its major suppliers, although the situation improved last year with rehabilitation of Kariba Dam hydro-electric power station.
The country is exploring clean renewable energy like solar to reduce operating costs especially in the tourism industry and ultimately make the sector cheaper and affordable to clients.
According to authorities, the country generates around 1 300MW from its thermal and hydro stations against a demand of between 1 500MW and 2 000 depending on season.
Victoria Falls, in the same district with the power station, is set to become one of the few tourism destinations running on clean renewable energy in the region, with a 100MW solar plant being constructed about 10km outside the city.
Southern Energy, a subsidiary of Makomo Resources which is the country’s major producer of coal in Hwange, invested $31 million for phase one of the project which will see 25MW being fed into the national grid in August.
The plant is located near Victoria Falls International Airport and is envisaged to be one of the largest solar parks in Zimbabwe once completed next year.
A similar project by another private investor is also on the cards in the same district.
“Once completed, Victoria Falls will be one of the first cities to run on clean energy and tourists will also know that they are assured of uninterrupted service,” said Richard Moyo, the Minister of State for Matabeleland North.
Zimbabwe also looks forward to implementation of the US$5 billion Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Project, a partnership with Zambia on the Zambezi River where 1 200MW will be generated.
– CAJ News