The US$1 billion expansion of Hwange Thermal Power Station will begin this year, with ground-breaking scheduled for July.
The project is part of the mega deals Zimbabwe and China signed during President Mugabe’s visit to the global power in 2014, and involves constructing two units that will feed 600MW into the national power grid.
The power station presently has six units with installed capacity of 920MW, but ageing equipment means only 600MW are being generated.
In an interview last week, Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Samuel Undenge said, “Ground-breaking is expected to be held soon, and we are quite confident that we are on course with the implementation of the project.”
Secretary for Energy Mr Patson Mbiriri weighed in: “Most of the on-lending agreements have been done, and these include the implementation agreement and creation of the ex-crue account. We have also met most of the conditions for the project to start.
“We are going to procure at least 20 percent of the equipment locally. We now have the capacity to do that. For example, our cement manufacturing industry is on the rebound, and I am sure we have the capacity to satisfy demand. This is different from what happened during the construction of Victoria Falls Airport where we were failing to supply enough cement.
“Some of the equipment that will be left over in the Kariba South Hydro project will also be used in the Hwange expansion project. We are excited about this work which is going to have a massive impact on our economy.”
A Zimbabwe Power Company official added: “Kariba South expansion alone employed 1 400 people. Considering that hydro is less labour-intensive, we are looking at a bigger number at Hwange because thermal is labour-intensive.”
Zimbabwe is generating 1 200MW against peak demand of 2 200MW and has been relying on imports from South Africa and Mozambique to cover the deficit.
Last December, Parliament approved the US$1 billion Hwange Power Station expansion loan facility after which authorities published the deal in the Government Gazette.
Sino-Hydro Corporation of China is the contractor.
Zimbabwe will be able to export electricity once work on Kariba South; Hwange 7 and 8; the Batoka Gorge Hydro Scheme; and power stations in Bulawayo, Harare and Munyati is complete.