China considers new power projects for Zimbabwe

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Harare (New Ziana) –China is considering funding new renewable energy projects in Zimbabwe to assist in easing power shortages, an official said on Thursday.

Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China would no longer fund new coal projects overseas, as a way of assisting to combat climate change.

As such, Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe Guo Shaochun said his government was encouraging more Chinese enterprises to participate in the green energy sector in Africa.

“We will explore the possibility of cooperation with Zimbabwe to further develop hydro and wind power stations, to ease the electricity shortage and improve its energy structure,” he told a press briefing.

Already, China has funded the expansion of the Kariba hydro-power plant which has added 300 Megawatts to the national grid.

Zimbabwe is pacing up its electricity generation capacity to keep up with increasing demand in the wake of increased economic activity which the Second Republic is ushering in, and ensure power shortages do not constrict growth.

Demand for power is increasing at rates in tandem with economic growth, putting pressure on the country to speed up development of domestic power generation.

The centerpiece of the government’s power generation development is the construction of the US$1.5 billion Hwange 7 and 8 Units, which will add a whopping 600 megawatts to the national grid.

Unit 7, which is between 87 to 90 percent complete, went into testing mode in June this year, and is expected to start full commercial operation in November, adding 300 megawatts.

The second unit, Hwange 8, will start trials in November, and become fully operation early next year, adding another 300 megawatts.

Several other power generation projects, albeit smaller, are either also underway, on the drawing boards or nearly at ground-breaking stage.

Among these is the planned life-extending rehabilitation of Hwange units 1 to 6, to be financed by a US$310 million Indian financing facility already secured.

Hwange unit 1 to 4 have an installed power generating capacity of 120 megawatts each, but because of degeneration of the plants over the years, output is far lower.

Units 5 and 6, on the other hand, have an installed production capacity of 220 megawatts, but suffer the same fate due to plant degeneration.

Work on the projects, which will be done in phases, is expected to start next year, and completed by 2025, at the earliest.

The government is also due to start rehabilitating the Bulawayo Thermal power plant, at a cost of US$110 million, again secured from India.

Potential investors are being scouted for the Harare and Munyati Thermal power stations, currently idle, as part of efforts to increase domestic power generation.

The three have the potential of adding a combined 300 megawatts if fully restored, which could be a significant contribution to achieving power self-sufficiency.

In addition to its own power projects, the government has also licenced several privately-owned ventures, mainly solar-based.

Like the government ones, some of these have either just come on stream, or are underway, at ground-breaking stage or on the drawing board.

One of those that have just come on stream is a 50 megawatt Chinese-owned thermal power plant in Hwange, and several hydro and solar projects in Nyanga, Hwange and Harare.

The country’s power needs currently stand at around 2 000 megawatts, against domestic generation of about half the figure, leaving a wide gap partially being filled by imports from South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique.

New Ziana

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