SPB stalling solar power stations: Mbiriri Solar

Tendai Sahondo Business Correspondent
The State Procurement Board (SPB) is stifling progress on the planned establishment of three solar power stations that will pump an additional 300MW onto the national grid, secretary of Energy and Power Development, Partson Mbiriri has said.

Mr Mbiriri said the procurement process has been delayed due to anomalies that arose in the second round of bids.

“Government plans to build three solar 100MW power stations in Gwanda, Munyati while the other plant will be stationed at Plumtree.

“However, progress for the project has been stalled by SPB processes as everything has remained in their hands years after the idea was first muted. There have been questions relating to the second round of bids.

“Once SPB has approved the recommendations that have gone to them, we will proceed,” he said.

SPB cancelled the projects last year after one of the winning bidders, China Jiangxi Corporation requested to increase the price to $207 million from $184 million. It was also alleged that the Zimbabwe Power Company ( ZPC) had failed to agree with the other two winning bidders, Intratrek and ZTE.

However, SPB executive Charles Kuwaza recently denied the projects had been cancelled insisting that the tendering process is ongoing.

He said the board is trying by all means to speed up the process while thoroughly analysing the bid documents.

The solar power stations are expected to provide immediate relief to energy consumers that are at the receiving end of constant power cuts.

Mr Mbiriri however, warned that blending solar energy with power from hydro and thermal power stations will hike the electrify tariffs as solar is more expensive to produce, averaging 17c to 19c per kilowatt hour

“If you produce too much solar and blend it with power from Hwange and Kariba, the blend tariff will invariably increase. Although solar is coming down in terms of cost, it still does not compare to the other forms of power generation,” he said.

He further said solar power cannot address the electricity challenges in the country as sunlight is limited during the morning and evening peak hours. He said Government would not be able to store the power in batteries as this would be too expensive if done at a large scale.

“Solar has limited capacity to address our real challenges on the ground, we might find that we have created white elephants” he added.

He said Government is also working making solar geysers mandatory on all new and existing structures.

“We are working on the legalities of mandatory solar heating. The decision has been that the solar water heaters should be made in Zimbabwe. We are also working on the finances that might be required for the project; two local commercial banks have already joined for the implementation of the project,” he said.

He said consumers will be expected to pay for the geysers through prepaid metres payments as ZETDC will handle the facility.

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