$1,5bn Hwange power plant project gets rolling
THE $1,5 billion 600MW Hwange Thermal Power Station expansion project has started rolling with preliminary agreements in place ahead of financial closure by October this year.
With the fall in water levels in the Zambezi River due to drought and the resultant loss of generation capacity at the Kariba Hydro-Power Station coupled with low power generation in the four thermal stations, Zimbabwe has resorted to imports to bridge the energy supply gap.
Energy and Power Development Ministry Permanent Secretary, Mr Patson Mbiriri, told Business Chronicle in Bulawayo on Friday that the much anticipated project was “certainly on course”.
“Most probably we will conclude financial closure by October to November. That’s our target.
“This is a big project and a lot of money is involved, you’re talking of up to $1,4 billion and you cannot expect that to be in place within a short space of time,” said Mr Mbiriri.
“Most agreements for the project have been initiated, we are certainly on course. Some initial costing is underway and geophysical works have started.”
Despite concerns over perceived delays in the project implementation, the Permanent Secretary said the Government was satisfied with progress made so far.
He said: “We have made agreements with coal and limestone suppliers as well as water. All that work is being done.
“We will need to put a second pipeline from the Zambezi River at Deka confluence.
“Our initial target was to conclude financial closure by the first half but we are happy with progress made”.
The massive power project is a key component, among other crucial investment projects, of the Zimbabwe-China development mega deals that were sealed by President Mugabe during his State visit to the Asian giant in 2014.
The estimated construction period for the new power project is 42 months from commencement, according to the Zimbabwe Power Company.
Upon completion, the project will add 600MW (2x300MW) into the national power grid through units 7 and 8.
At the moment Hwange Thermal Power Station generates an average of 500MW against its installed 920MW capacity.
It is the largest coal-fired power station in the country comprising 4x120MW and 2x220 MW units and is the 14th largest station in the Southern African region.
The 4x120MW units were commissioned between 1983 and 1986 while the 2x220MW were commissioned in 1986 and 1987.
Due to ageing equipment, the existing station has been subjected to frequent breakdowns, which has compromised efficiency and reduced its capacity.
The contract for the expansion of Hwange units 7 and 8 was awarded to Chinese firm Sino Hydro, which also landed the tender for capacity extension of the 750MW Kariba Hydro Power Station.
The Government, through Zesa Holdings, is working on increasing domestic power generation to bridge the gap between power supply and demand.
The country generates about 1,100MW against peak demand of 2,200MW.
To bridge the gap Zimbabwe is importing over 300MW from South Africa’s Eskom to ease its power deficit while discussions are in progress with other regional utilities.
Several licences have also been issued to independent power producers to complement at least nine projects ZPC is working on, which will see Zimbabwe achieving excess capacity and exporting to the region from 2018 and beyond.
Hwange Thermal Power Station Mr Patson Mbiriri