Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
The actual construction works for Zesa’s US$1,4 billion Hwange Power Station (HPS) 7 and 8 extension project have started, giving hope the project will be completed within time and original budget, a senior executive told The Herald Business.
The capacity extension project, which is being carried out by Chinese energy systems giant, Sino Hydro, will add 600 Megawatts to HPS’ current installed power generation capacity of 920MW. Construction through to commission is expected to take 42 months.
Notably, Sinohydro undertook the capacity extension works at Kariba South Power Station units 7 and 8, which added 300MW to the station’s previous capacity of 750MW. President Mnangagwa commissioned the plant in March last year.
Expectations are that the completion of the Hwange Power Station extension project, will increase Zimbabwe’s power generation capacity beyond current peak period demand for electricity of 1 600MW, which outstrips internal supply of 1 400MW. Until the completion of Kariba South extension project, Zimbabwe imported between 350MW and 400MW, using scarce foreign currency resources, to bridge its internal power supply deficit.
Despite the crippling shortage of foreign currency, Zimbabwe inevitably spent $5 million weekly to import power from Hydro Cahora Bassa of Mozambique and South Africa’s Eskom.
State power utility Zesa’s acting chief executive Engineer Patrick Chivaura, said last week the Hwange project had witnessed its “first pour of concrete”, injecting pace into Zimbabwe’s march towards self-sufficiency in energy, a key economic enabler. This comes after President Mnangagwa in June last year officiated at the ground breaking for the power project after China Export and Import Bank (China Eximbank) had approved the US$1,1 billion loan financing package for the project.
The China Eximbank approved the funding following President Mnangagwa’s fruitful State visit to Beijing in April that year, the Zimbabwean Head of State’s first outbound international trip out of Africa after his rise to power in November 2017.
Eng Chivaura said during the interview that all the initial preparatory works had been completed and that actual construction works on the HPS extension project were now underway.
“To be exact, we have done the civils (civil engineering works), the excavations and we are now pouring concrete,” he said.
“(We are confident) It (project) will be completed in time and budget, yes. We have done our first draw down (of the US$1,1 billion China Eximbank loan facility),” Eng Chivaura said.
According to Zesa, the last time the Southern Africa country put any investment into Hwange was more than 30 years ago, 1984 precisely, when installation of the last generators was completed.
The latest investment to extend Hwange’s generation capacity is therefore an important development, as it puts some of the fundamentals for power supply to support the economy.
Hwange and Kariba South power stations are Zimbabwe’s major power plants, but despite the former’s 920MW capacity, the station’s reliability has significantly declined due to its advanced age, and can only generate 550MW, at most.
Three other small thermals in Bulawayo, Kwekwe and Harare have outlived their useful life and were de-commissioned. The small thermal power stations are, however, set to undergo major overhauls to restore their reliability.
Given that Zimbabwe’s economy has not registered significant sustained growth since the turn of the century, and any marked recovery in fortunes of the economy going forward will likely put considerable strain on power supply.
It is against this background that Government is leaving no stone unturned in a concerted effort to secure funding needed to increase Zimbabwe’s internal power generation capacity.
Government has since joined hands with Zambia to develop the 2 400MW Batoka hydro power project, which will be built on the riparian Zambezi River, a few kilometres downstream from the Victoria Falls.
Further, Government has in the past few years issued several independent power producers (IPP) licences to ensure they also invest in power to be fed into the national grid.