Zim gets US$310m for Hwange power upgrades
Zimbabwe has secured US$310 million from the Export-Import Bank of India to rehabilitate six units at the Hwange Power Station in a bid to restore its capacity to 920 megawatts, Energy and Power Development Minister Zhemu Soda said.
The rehabilitation of the aging thermal power plant, to be done in three phases, is expected to begin during the first quarter of 2023 and after the commissioning of units 7 and 8.
Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), the generation unit of State power utility ZESA Holdings, is expected to commission unit 7 at Hwange with the capacity of producing 300 MW early next month while unit 8, with the same generation capacity, will come online during the first quarter of 2023.
The Government contracted Sino-Hydro to fund the expansion of Hwange in a deal worth US$1,2 billion. Zimbabwe is already experiencing rolling power cuts, also known as load shedding, due to frequent breakdowns at the Hwange power plant.
“We are likely to have two units decommissioned at a time (to pave way for rehabilitation) until all the units have been repaired,” said Minister Soda. “We are looking at restoring the capacity of all the units to 920MW upon completion.”
He said the ZPC has engaged a consultant already working on a detailed project report that will detail the scope of the work and “it should be ready by end of November.”
“The report will pave way for the disbursements of the funds by the Exim Bank of India.”
Hwange was built in two stages with the 4×120 MW units commissioned between 1983 and 1986 and the 2x 220MW commissioned between 1986 and 1987.
On average, the plant produces an average of between 380 MW and 400, 40m percent below its capacity. Minister Soda could not provide the rehabilitation timelines.
Despite modest investments in Zimbabwe’s energy sector, potential output remains far from being enough to support investments in the economy, some analysts say.
With new investments trickling into the mining and manufacturing sectors, there will be a huge demand for power in the short to medium term, analysts say, adding more investments are “urgently” needed to avert a potential electricity crunch.
Last year, ZESA received 23 applications from smelting and mining companies, which will require 2 100 megawatts (MW) by 2025, ZESA executive chairman Sydney Gata said recently.
The backlog on new connections for domestic customers currently stands at about 350 000, Mr Ralph Katsande, the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), a unit of ZESA, commercial director said this week.
Last week, Zimbabwe experienced a countrywide blackout after transmission infrastructure at Alaska caught fire, resulting in the disturbance of the national transmission system.
All the power stations, except Harare, were switched off and it took almost five hours to restore the system.