Energy investments help improve electricity supplies Engineer Gloria Magombo

Bulawayo Bureau

THE completion of the 600MW Hwange Thermal Power Station Units 7 and 8 project last year and the increasing private sector investment in renewable energy has cushioned Zimbabwe from extensive load shedding, at a time when power generation at the giant Kariba Hydro Power Station has been crippled by low water levels due to drought.

The El Nino weather conditions have disrupted rainfall patterns  across Southern Africa, resulting in low inflows being recorded at Kariba Dam, forcing the Zambezi Water Authority to restrict power generation at the Kariba Hydro Power Station, which now produces less than 300MW against its installed capacity of 1 050MW. In the past such reduction in power generation would have resulted in extensive power cuts as the country was not generating adequate electricity to meet domestic consumer and industry demands.

However, following the commissioning of the US$1,4 billion Hwange Unit 7 and 8 project by President Mnangagwa last year, the power situation has improved with the private sector players, riding on enhanced Government support, also coming on board to generate renewable energy to ease the pressure on the grid.

Energy and Power Development Permanent Secretary, Engineer Gloria Magombo, yesterday said the situation could have been worse without the positive investment strides in building new energy capacity.

“The reduction in electricity generation is already happening because we are averaging around 200MW already (at Kariba Hydro Power Station). But what has mitigated and reduced the impact from the previous years is the coming in of Hwange Unit 7 and 8,” she said.

“It has brought in an average of 600MW, which was not there in the previous years when we had challenges,” said Eng Magombo.

“You might find out that yes we have challenges, especially when Unit 1 to 6 are struggling and they are down. But the impact is much-much less compared to the actual megawatts, which we have lost.”

The Permanent Secretary said the private sector was also complementing the Government in power generation through renewable energy projects.

“The private sector has also taken an initiative to build new capacity to ensure security. Over the past five years we have seen a significant growth in the power generation for our own consumption,” said Dr Magombo.

“The private sector has taken the initiative through what we call commercial and industrial systems to build their own power stations. In Matabeleland South, we have seen the likes of 12MW, which was built by Caledonia Mine in Gwanda.

“We are expecting a new 10MW plant in Bulawayo and another 20MW in Colleen Bawn (Gwanda). So, in total 30 MW, which is going to be built by PPC for their own consumption,” she said.

The Permanent Secretary said mining companies across the country are building solar power generation plants with one of the significant one being built in Masvingo and Mashonaland West.

“When I’m talking about the 35MW, the 12MW I think we have over 50MW, which is being built by the private sector for their own consumption and that does alleviate the pressure off the grid,” she said.

“We are seeing the steel company (Manhize), they will come in with an additional 50MW, which they will also produce from the residual from their heat processes.”

Dr Magombo said the Renewable Energy Policy has even seen insurance and pensions fund players unlocking value through investing in big solar plants with one of the projects being the one at Cross Mabale in Matabeleland North.

She said the private sector’s investment in the energy sector is a product of the country’s Renewable Energy Policy, which was launched in 2019.

The deliberate policy saw the Government removing the importation duty for those who were bringing renewable energy equipment in the country.

Eng Magombo said even household solar users have increased due to the removal of the import duty. While independent power producers were reluctant to invest in the energy sector due to failure to guarantee surety of their investment, the Government has become a guarantor in their investments. This has seen IPPs also contributing to the national grid, which never used to happen in the past.

“We have seen the increase in new investments as major projects were struggling because they were citing the issue of guarantees. The Government through the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion, has come up with a Government implementation agreement and this agreement assures the IPPs that once they sold their power to Zesa, they will be allowed to be paid their requirements and if Zesa fails then Government becomes the guarantor. Those are some of the incentives that have been put in place,” she said.

Eng Magombo said the Government has also restructured the country’s energy market allowing extensive power consumers to buy power from independent producers, which never used to happen.

“We have also restructured the market to ensure that large intensive energy users can buy directly from independent power producers, which gives them assurance of being paid timeously, especially when Zesa in the past used to have challenges,” she said.

“We are going through one of the worst droughts in the country and we all need to use energy efficiently. We know it’s going to be a difficult time and we urge people to brace up and reduce consumption and use the energy efficiently.

“But those who have capacity, especially the large consumers, we are asking them to come in and also build additional capacity and take off the pressure from Zesa,” said Eng Magombo.

She encouraged investment in the renewable energy sector saying it is something that can be gradually done.

-@nqotshili

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