Work on the US$1,4 billion Hwange Power Station expansion to add 600MW to the national grid is now almost 40 percent complete and on course for coming on stream in October next year as planned.
Project manager Engineer Forbes Chanakira recently said: “As we speak, we are at around 39,4 percent and we envisage that in the coming few weeks right up to the end of this year, we will see the project getting to around 60 to 66 percent.”
The project entails civil, mechanical and electrical works.
So far, the chimney and cooling tower have been constructed. Workmen were almost completing truss columns. About US$290 million has already been drawn down for these civil works but the bulk of the money will be spent on the electro-mechanical works, mainly the huge boiler-turbine-generator-transformer sets and the associated coal feed and piping.
Work on the intiap electro-mechanical works, involving on-site fabrication of pipe works and structural steel erection, are now in progress at Hwange
Last week, Zimbabwe cleared its arrears with Eskom and is working on modalities to extinguish the US$52 million owed to Mozambican utilities, Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa and the Electricidade de Mozambique.
It is against this background that the expansion of Hwange Power Station is critical, as are both an enabler for future investments and enhancing the quality of life of ordinary citizens. The extensions were originally planned for the 1990s but were continuously postponed as Zesa switched to ever-increasing imports instead.
The Hwange extension is especially critical as the power station, which will generate over 1 500MW when the units in the two earlier stages are all rehabilitated or replaced, operates regardless of climate change or rainfall, unlike Kariba South.
The project is one of the deals unlocked by President Mnangagwa during his State visit to China in April 2018, resulting in Chinese President Xi Jinping authorising the financing of the project, which so far created 2 500 jobs for both locals and foreigners.
Said Eng Chanakira: “It’s really a significant project in that light and we also envisage employment opportunities for our locals as well as for the general Zimbabwean population where they will be coming in to ensure that whatever the requirements in terms of employment from the contractor, they will also be able to participate.”
The project remains within the set timeframes for completion, but the outbreak of Covid-19 has slowed down the manufacture and supply of materials or products.
Recently, the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs responsible for Monitoring Implementation of Government Programmes, Dr Joram Gumbo, toured the project to get an appreciation of progress on the ground.
“Besides all the problems that we are facing, I am really impressed that the work is going on very well and it’s quite impressive.
“One thing that impressed me a lot is that besides the fact that we have got foreign nationals working here, we also have very well trained and educated Zimbabweans who are participating in this project,” he said.
“If we can use the expertise of our people who are out of the country and bring them back, definitely we can be able to do such projects on our own.”
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries national vice president Mr Joseph Gunda said a contribution of 600MW into the national grid would be significant and critical in driving production and the economy forward.
Investment in water, energy and transport infrastructure is seen as critical by the Transitional Stabilisation Programme.
Such projects play an important role in the achievement of Vision 2030 of an upper middle income society.
The expansion of Hwange follows the addition of 300MW at Kariba South Hydropower Station, to take the installed capacity to 1 050MW although until the lake has risen considerably, Zesa is rationed to an average of 275MW.