Zimbabwe's $2 bn power project resumes after two years

Jun 16, 2016 12:00 AM

Construction of the country's US$2,1 billion 600MW thermal power station by China Africa Sunlight Energy in Gwayi is expected to commence by year end after being put on hold for two years, a top government official has said.

Government has turned to alternative source of energy to mitigate the decade-long power crisis.

A delegation led by deputy chief secretary in the office of the president and cabinet Ray Dhlukula was recently in China to expedite financial closure with a view to resume work at the project by year end, Energy and Power Development permanent secretary Partson Mbiriri told journalists during a media tour in Kariba on Wednesday.

"We have projects going through the preparatory stage.The most advanced and most promising one is the China Africa Sunlight project to generate 600mw at Gwayi," Mbiriri said.

He added:" A week or two ago we were in China with a delegation to try and finalise the financial arrangement ,our delegation was led by deputy chief secretary (Ray)Dhlukula. We are expecting activity on the ground end of year or early next year."

China Africa Sunlight Energy and the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company in 2014 penned a provisional power purchasing agreement for electricity that will be generated from the company's proposed US$2,1 billion energy projects in the next five years on power generation, coal mining and methane bed gas extraction in Matabeleland north.

The power station would see the enactment of a 240 kilometre power line from the source to Insukamini as well as a pipeline link from the Gwayi-Shangani dam.

The first phase China Africa Sunlight Energy would contribute 300 megawatts (MW) to the national grid.

The second phase is earmarked to focus on methane gas extraction and the construction of a second 300MW power plant by 2017.

There are numerous power projects in the pipeline to boast power generation in the country with Mbiririri saying the Batoka project speared by Zambezi River Authority was going on market sounding soon.

He said after that feasibility studies will be done followed by tender processes.

Once the project comes alive it will be sychronised with Kariba hydro plant.

There are a number of independent power producers such as the Nyangani renewable energy with the largest unit generating 15mw adequate to provide power to Mutare town.

Mbiriri said other private power projects such as Makomo ,Lusulu ,Sengwa which is Riozim proposal were rearing towards financial closure.

"We embarking on three solar projects as ZPC but the challenge is that it has been historically been expensive and generation from the plant fluctuates due to different weather conditions. Of course there are now technologies that minimize fluctuations," Mbiriri said.

He added:"The other reason why we have been not running solar have to do with the fact that you get solar when there is sunshine during the day and not get solar in the night. Unfortunately our most challenging time is the morning peak and evening peak sun is rising and there is no solar. Evening peak there is no solar. Unless if you store that solar. They say if you store solar you double the cost."

The permanent secretary said the large electricity consumers will be put on smart meters with phase two of rolling out prepaid meters targeting Bulawayo and Harare commencing next month.

He said the move will give the power utility secure meaningful cash flow at a time the parastatal its owed US$1 billion by its creditors.

"Far end we are looking at putting everyone on prepaid meters. The program will from July will still have a number of people without prepaid meters especially in Harare and Bulawayo.

That will give us a more secure cash flow,"he said.

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