Africa Moyo Deputy News Editor
GOVERNMENT has placed high priority in the construction of solar projects in a bid to reduce electricity shortages in the short-term.
Zimbabwe is grappling untold power shortages resulting in long hours of load shedding, mainly due to obsolete power generation equipment at thermal power stations and low water levels in Kariba Dam.
This has seen Government prioritising investment in solar as they have a quick turnaround, said the Director in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, Engineer Benson Munyaradzi recently.
“The Ministry of Energy is encouraging investments in solar power plants as these have a quicker installation period,” said Eng Munyaradzi. “These investments are required at a time when our economy is not yet financially stable to be able to finance the investments locally. We have to partner with local and foreign investors to develop the needed additional electricity generation capacity.
“Our aim is to build a minimum of 300MW from solar per annum for the next 10 years, which would assist in closing the gap as well as updating outdated power plants.”
The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) has already processed 39 solar projects which have capacity to generate up 1 151,87MW. A number of the projects are underway across the country with Centragrid in Nyabira, about 40km northwest of Harare, having started feeding 2,5MW into the national grid.
Eng Munyaradzi said solar energy was critical as it removed over-reliance on Kariba South Power Station which was generating 290MW on Friday against an installed capacity of 1 050MW, due to low water levels.
“As you know, the country has depended on Kariba for electricity, but this has rather changed dramatically in the last three years. Kariba has been the victim of drought conditions over this period and it seems that this may become the new normal,” said Eng Munyaradzi. “Today we can only generate about 10 percent of the power that can come out of the Kariba Power Station which means that the shortfall of almost 900MW will need to come from somewhere else. The immediate alternative is coal because we need reliable baseloads, but Hwange Power Station is old and can only generate 500MW currently,” he said.
Eng Munyaradzi said while the major expansion of Hwange Thermal Power Station was “progressing well”, which will see 600MW being produced on project completion in 2021, the construction of new coal plants takes time. Eng Munyaradzi said apart from investments in solar, Zimbabwe has to “resort to the importation of electricity as an emergency measure”.