The Sunday News
Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Gwanda Correspondent
THE Government has suffered a potential revenue loss of about US$50 million as a result of the incompletion of the 100 megawatt Gwanda solar power plant, a Cabinet Minister has revealed.
Speaking in an interview after visiting the site on Friday, Energy and Power Development Minister Advocate Fortune Chasi said the solar plant was supposed to have been commissioned by December 2017 and delays in implementing the project had resulted in the loss of sales by Zesa equivalent to 500GWhs (Gigawatt-hours) and potential revenue loss of about US$50 million as of June this year.
Intratek Zimbabwe Private Limited, a company owned by flamboyant businessman, Mr Wicknell Chivayo was awarded the tender in 2015 and paid US$5 million by ZPC for pre-commencement work at the 100 megawatt Gwanda solar power plant.
After receiving the money without a bank guarantee, no meaningful development has taken place at the site.
“100 megawatts is a lot of power.
This project was supposed to have been commissioned by December 2017 and delays in implementing the project had resulted in the loss of sales by Zesa equivalent to 500GWhs and potential revenue loss of about US$50 million as of June this year.
“We are trying to generate power, conserve power in order to reduce our import bill for power and so this project is very important for us to generate power here.
Once this project is up and running we would have saved a significant amount of money.
We are not awash with foreign currency,” he said.
Minister Chasi expressed disappointment as no work has been done at the site of the project despite the $5 million payment that was made to Intratek.
He said the solar project was a crucial initiative that would address electricity challenges faced in the country.
He said the Government was going to engage Intratek as they expected a refund or to see an operational solar plant.
“I can’t explain the level of depression that I’m experiencing right now given the power situation in the country, my expectation was to see some magnificent amount of work. As a ministry and Government we feel let down and we are now going back to look at this situation.
I know that there has been mitigation and the project owner has won but what I need are megawatts.
“I’m also focusing on Zesa itself to understand why there was a delay.
This project started a long time ago and we can’t afford the luxury of taking extended periods of time in project implementation. I need to see a project here generating 100 megawatts as we were promised.
That’s a significant amount of power, right now all I see is firewood and we can’t put firewood in the transmission system of Zesa,” he said.
Minister Chasi said his ministry was aware of prevailing power cuts that were affecting operations of various institutions.
He said his ministry was working with the Ministry of Health and Child Care to see how best they could provide solar power to hospitals.
He said efforts were also underway to get power from neighbouring countries.
He said potential investors were not going to be interested in conducting their business in a country experiencing power cuts hence his ministry was seized with the matter.
“I’m also aware that there are some suburbs in different parts of the country which have stayed for up to 20 years without power connections.
We are working closely with Zesa to understand all those situations.
We are looking at the possibility of ensuring that solar equipment or anything related to solar comes in effectively duty free so that we encourage even ordinary individuals to start these solar projects.
“We are also going to look at new construction projects and the law closely to say that new projects must include solar power so that people don’t go for 20 years without power.
This is an urban area and some people end up using plastic to cook thereby worsening the climate change situation.
We are creating a database on all the housing projects that don’t have power to see how best to address the situation,” he said.
Speaking at the site Minister of State for Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs, Cde Abednico Ncube said people from Gwanda and the entire province continued to experience severe power cuts yet the solar plant project they had long awaited could provide a solution.