Hwange power plant expansion starts May

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Hwange Power Station

Golden Sibanda
State power utility Zesa is targeting to start construction works for the $1,4 billion capacity extension of Hwange Power Station by end of May and completion of the project in 40 months. The project is to be undertaken by China’s electrical engineering and energy systems construction giant Sinohydro.

The Hwange capacity extension project will add two generating units, each producing 300 megawatts. The power plant currently has installed capacity of 920MW, but can only produce a maximum of 550MW due to advanced age.

Sinohydro recently concluded the extension of Kariba South units 7 and 8, at an estimated cost of $533 million, to add 300MW to the previously existing generating capacity of 750MW.

President Mnangagwa commissioned the plant last week at a glamorous event attended by hundreds from all walks of life.

Chief executive Josh Chifamba said this week that all paper work had been signed, including the documentation for release of Zesa’s equity portion contribution of over $40 million from Afreximbank, a regional development finance institution.

Engineer Chifamba also said a power purchase agreement had already been signed between Zesa generation unit, Zimbabwe Power Company and distribution arm, Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution and Transmission Company (ZETDC).

Further, Eng Chifamba said President Mnangagwa’s recent State visit to China was expected to give impetus to the release of the bulk of the funding, $1,1 billion, from China Eximbank. The project had stalled since signing in October 2014.

“Since this is our own project, we will not sign power purchase agreements with any foreign power utilities. A PPA is already in place, it was signed between ZPC and ZETDC,” he said.

“We have signed all paperwork to clear the way for the release of the funding for the project, including (equity) funding that will come from Afreximbank,” Eng Chifamba said.

The ZESA group chief executive said that the State power utility was ready and “everything was good to go”, adding that construction could commence between now and “end of May. Construction of the power plant will take 40 months.

President Mnanagwa said last week that he would brief Chinese leader Xi Jinping on his gratitude over Sinohydro’s successful completion of the Kariba South expansion project and that the company would also undertake expansion of Hwange.

The President noted that Hwange capacity extension provided a solution for bridging the country’s immediate energy supply deficiency while the country sought investment and developed sustainable sources of energy such as coalbed methane gas, in Matabeleland, mini hydro and solar energy power plants at various sites across the country.

Ongoing power projects, including the jointly developed Batoka Gorge meant to add 1000MW, each, to Zimbabwe and Zambia, are meant to close a power shortage which stands at 600MW. Current production averages 1 200MW against demand of 1 600MW, with the difference met from imports.

The huge investment into the coal fired power station comes at a time when the whole world is trying to move away from sources of energy that are not environmentally friendly.

The World Bank’s board in 2013 agreed to a new energy strategy that limits financing of coal-fired power plants to “rare circumstances,” as the Washington-based global development powerhouse seeks to address the impact of climate change.

As such, the bank will amend its lending policies for new coal-fired power projects, restricting financial support to countries with “no feasible alternatives”, as it seeks to balance environmental efforts with the energy needs of poor countries.

Coal contaminates everything it comes in contact with and creates problems at every step of its life cycle: from unhealthy and unsafe underground mines, to the environmental catastrophes of mountaintop removal, to the problems of handling enormous piles of ash produced every day.

But by far, the biggest problem of coal is the enormous amount of carbon dioxide emitted. According to experts, coal contributes 31 percent of all CO2, the largest of any source.

Together, the United States and China are responsible for 33 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in the whole world.

The people who still support coal as an energy source basically have one argument: that it is a necessary evil, being the only source of energy within reach that is sufficiently abundant to keep up with the ever-growing appetite for energy.

Coal accounts for 40 percent of all electric generation, (down from 45 percent) and 21 percent of all energy in the United States.

Meanwhile, renewables accounted for just over 10 percent of electric power in 2010, and most of that was from existing hydro-power.

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