Bulawayo Thermal Power Station is set to undergo a major retooling exercise from the first quarter of the year following the financial closure of a US$87 million loan secured from India at the end of 2015.
The massive boost comes at a time when Zimbabwe and many Sadc countries are facing serious electricity shortages because of a growing demand which is triggered by expanding industries in the region.
Three weeks ago, Parliament approved two international loan agreements worth US$107 from the Export-Import Bank of India in terms of section 327 (3) of the Constitution.
These include the US$87 million for the Bulawayo Thermal Power Station project and US$20 million for the construction of about 20 schools in farms where people were resettled since 2000.
Government will repay the loan over 10 years.
Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) spokesperson, Mr Fullard Gwasira told The Sunday Mail last week that the latest development in Parliament had marked the beginning of ‘real work’ at the power station.
“The Parliamentary approval signifies the end of the financial closure and we are going to tender soon and work is expected to start,” he said.
Mr Gwasira said the actual retooling of the plant was expected to commence during the first half of this year.
“Apart from additional electricity, the plant is also expected to create employment for the Bulawayo community,” Mr Gwasira said.
The upgrading of the power station is expected to be conducted over a three-year period and will breathe life into the facility that was built in 1947 with a 120 mega watt (MW) capacity but had reduced electricity generation to a maximum 30MW owing to obsolete equipment.
At least 70MW are expected to be added to the current capacity at the end of the exercise.
According to the Consumer Energy Center, one megawatt is enough to power 1 000 homes at any given time with all their basic electrical appliances switched on.
The upgrading of the power station is part of Government’s commitment to improve infrastructure and utilities in the country.
The loan facilities will provide a boost in the implementation of the country’s economic blueprint — Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset)’s Infrastructure and Utilities cluster.
According to the cluster, all systems in the country should promote a robust establishment and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure that plays a fundamental role in the socio-economic development of Zimbabwe such as energy and power, water and sanitation, public amenities, transport and ICT.
Revamping the Bulawayo Power Station will improve the obtaining electricity situation and industrial productivity.
Industry, which has been affected by over a decade of inactivity, says its efforts to return to productivity have been hampered by inadequate electricity. The country generates an average 1 000MW against an installed capacity of 2245MW and a demand of 2200MW.
Major power stations such as Hwange are generating an average 440MW with Kariba producing 460MW while Harare is producing about 30MW and Munyati 17MW.
The electricity situation has been worsened by decreased water levels in Kariba and the constant breakdown at Hwange Power Station.
Commenting on the latest $20 million facility for schools, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Dr Lazarus Dokora said the construction of the schools will improve the learning environment for pupils in resettled areas.
“This is also expected to have huge downstream benefits such as employment creation and direct injection of foreign currency into the national economy thereby improving liquidity,” he said.
Dr Dokora said the construction of schools will see pupils walking shorter distances to school.
India joins countries such as China that have provided funds over US$1 billion in concessionary and preferential loans to fund Zimbabwe’s developmental activities.
In the last few years, Indian Exim Bank has provided loans worth several millions of dollars to Zimbabwe.
The Indians extended a $49,9 million loan facility for the purchase of vehicles for the Ministry of Hospitality and Tourism; $13 million to Hwange Colliery Company for the procurement of mining equipment and $28 million for the improvement of Deka pumping station to maintain the cooling of Hwange Thermal Power Station.
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