The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
EFFORTS to capacitate the multi-million-dollar Jatropha bio-diesel processing plant in Mount Hampden have been stalled due to logistical challenges, an official has said.
Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) acting chief executive officer Engineer Eddington Mazambani told Sunday News Business that the project which was premised on cutting the country’s fuel import bill has been put on hold despite high hopes that it would finally take off soon.
“The project has been put on hold due to logistical challenges,” he said without elaborating on specific challenges bedevilling the project from starting operations.
The project was conceived 13 years ago when the country was in the throes of biting fuel shortages but has been dormant for over a decade with most of the years being dedicated towards research. However, Sunday News Business has it on good authority that the major stumbling block leading to the failure of the project to kick off has been lack of adequate funding.
This year the Government applied for US$12 million from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to pursue its Jatropha bio-diesel projects, which entails capacitating the processing plant in Mt Hampden, as well as embarking on various programmes aimed at improving the production of plant species.
However, indications are that authorities are awaiting the outcome of the application. The plant is expected to ensure the country blend conventional diesel by at least two percent using bio-diesel as it moves to alleviate its balance of payments constraints and lessen oil import dependency.
“The Jatropha bio-diesel plant will lead to reduction of diesel imports, would reduce fuel import bill and forex expenditure; lower diesel prices and create employment in the whole value chain,” said Eng Mazambani.
Jatropha is an extremely hardy and frugal plant species native to tropical and sub-tropical areas where it grows on wasteland.
Jatropha seeds contain large quantities of oil that can be processed into a variety of products such as bio-fuels, animal feed, cosmetics and organic fertiliser.
Meanwhile, Zera has licensed 42 solar projects with a combined capacity of 1338,07 megawatts as the Government moves to explore other alternative energy sources to alleviate the power deficit haunting the country.
“There are 42 licensed solar projects to date. The largest solar project that is now under construction is Harava Solar Park (20MW) which is being developed in Seke Communal Lands. The rest of the solar projects are at different stages of development . . . ,” said Eng Mazambani.