The Sunday News
Fairness Moyana, Sunday News Correspondent
THE Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) has secured a US$310 million line of credit to finance the refurbishment of six power units at Hwange Power Station (HPS) as part of efforts to increase generation capacity and extend the plant’s lifespan by a further 20 years.
The project will lead to the total overhaul of the six units at HPS at a cost of US$450 million over a five-year period. The development comes on the backdrop of power outages across the country that have been attributed to depressed power generation at the thermal power station where only two units are generating a combined 245MW. In addition, four generating units which caused an intensified load shedding schedule last week have been repaired, and load shedding is expected to lessen this week.
In an interview on the sidelines of a monitoring tour last week by the Minister of Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Matabeleland North, Cde Richard Moyo, ZPC general manager Engineer Shepherd Mukundi said the company has since secured funds from an Indian bank to kick start the process, which is separate from the expansion work being done on Unit Seven and Unit Eight.
“We have planned to refurbish the plant after the commissioning of units seven and eight as they are due for refurbishment leading to what we call life extension. This plant is now 38 years old but the design life is 30 years so we are eight years over, so we want to give it a new life, another 20 years. We now have a line of credit that we got from India to refurbish and add another 20 years and that will happen once we commission units seven and eight. The project to extend the lifespan of six power generation units at Hwange Power Station is set to commence next year. We have secured US$310 million of the initial project cost of US$450m from India. The project will be done over a period of three to five years,” said Eng Mukundi.
The process, he said, will involve one unit being taken offline at a time before being rebuilt and requiring large-scale component replacement in the coal feed, boiler, turbine, transformer and generator.
HPS is the largest coal-fired power station in the country comprising 4 x 120MW and 2 x 220MW units with an installed capacity to generate 920MW of electricity. The six units —have since exceeded their life span of 30 years by over eight years, a situation that has seen subdued power generation owing to constant breakdowns.
The station was built in two stages. The 4 x 120MW units were commissioned between 1983 and 1986 while the 2 x 220MW came online in 1986 and 1987. Eng Mukundi said they are banking on the completion of Unit Seven and Eight expansion project, largely seen as a key enabler in ending the country’s power challenges that has seen Zimbabwe resorting to importing part of its electricity to meet demand.
Under the Second Republic, Zimbabwe’s industrialisation drive has seen a growing demand for power especially in farming, mining and infrastructure development sectors. Power is seen as a key economic enabler in the full capacity utilisation of various sectors ranging from agriculture, mining, infrastructure development and manufacturing, among others.
The country’s power generation stands at 1 113MW with Munyati producing 13MW, Harare — 12MW, Kariba — 843MW while Hwange is at 245MW. The 90MW Bulawayo Power Station is out of service due to breakdowns.
The country has a peak electricity demand of 1 600 MW and covers the shortfall through imports from South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique but South Africa has lately been struggling to meet domestic demands.
Economic growth spurred by the Second Republic has seen a growing appetite for power as more mining companies exploiting gold, platinum, lithium, coal, chrome and other minerals have opened. President Mnangagwa has been calling for more investment in the energy sector to meet the country’s growing power demand which is expected to be at a peak of 2000 MW by the end of 2023.
Furthermore, Government is already working on various power generation projects that include the 600MW Hwange Units seven and eight expansion, 2 400MW Batoka Gorge, 300MW Kariba South Hydro expansion and power station as well as several photovoltaic solar plants through Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to bolster electricity supply.
Meanwhile, construction of Unit Seven is now at 97 percent and is expected to be commissioned next month with engineers having started the process of synchronising various sub systems. Overally, the two units which are components of a US$1,4 billion expansion project which began in August 2018 are at 93 percent completion with Unit Eight set to go online early next year.