Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
The Government is excited that the $1.4 billion Hwange Thermal Power Station expansion project will finally take off with a groundbreaking ceremony to be led by President Mugabe set for July this year, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Energy and Power Development Minister Samuel Undenge told journalists on the sidelines of the Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme investors’ conference in Livingstone, Zambia last week that financial closure for the $1.4 billion will be reached in May.
“Yes there have been power shortages in the region since 2007 hence we are building power generation projects to close that gap.
“We are vigorously pursuing the construction of Hwange Unit 7 and 8 and very soon we will reach financial closure hopefully by the end of May and we have planned a ground breaking ceremony in July where his Excellency President Mugabe will come and do the ground breaking,” said Minister Undenge.
Expansion of Hwange Thermal Power Station’s generation capacity will add 600MW to the national power grid.
The contract for the expansion of Hwange thermal power station 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.
Minister Undenge said: “We are excited about the project and we are happy that it’s finally consummating. It will cost about $1.2 billion and when we factor in interest rates it will come to about $1.4 billion. With the expansion we are bringing onto the stream two units each one each with 300MW to add up to 600 megawatts, which is a major boost to our power generation.”
The Government, through power utility Zesa Holdings, is working on increasing domestic power generation to bridge the gap between power supply and demand with production far lower than demand.
Zimbabwe is importing power from South Africa’s Eskom to ease its power deficit while discussions are in progress with other regional utilities, Lusemfwa of Zambia and EDM of Mozambique for more imports.
Several licences have also been issued to independent power producers to complement at least nine projects Zimbabwe Power Company is working on, which will see Zimbabwe achieving excess capacity and exporting to the region from 2018 and beyond.
The $4 billion Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme spearheaded by Zimbabwe and Zambia is viewed as the panacea to power challenges in both countries and the Sadc region at large hence the two governments last week held an investors’ conference in Livingstone, Zambia with potential financiers to mobilise resources.
Sino Hydro and other contractors, institutional investors, banks and organisations such as EU were among those who attended and showed interest in funding construction of the dam with tenders to be opened before end of the year.