US$1,5 billion needed to capitalise power plants

Livingstone Marufu Business Reporter
Zimbabwe needs over US$1, 5 billion to recapitalise existing power plants and construct new ones at Hwange Thermal Station and Makomo so as to ensure a steady supply of electricity, an energy expert has said. This comes as the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) — an electricity generation unit of Zesa Holdings — is facing serious power challenges, especially in Hwange where only 110MW are being generated against a capacity of 920MW. ZPC’s electricity generation plants are old, resulting in power generation and distribution disruptions and there is need to start constructing new power stations at Makomo resources, where there is abundant coal.

The project, together with other factors such as water logging and generator outages, has seen power output significantly declining at Hwange. The country’s power generation plants such as Harare, Munyati and Bulawayo thermal power stations were constructed between 1942 and 1957 and have since passed their lifespan. Experts suggest that if Makomo and Hwange are recapitalised to produce electricity, cost of coal and other raw materials that have hampered Harare, Munyati and Bulawayo will be solved.

Director for a local energy think tank, Zimbabwe Energy Council (ZEC), Mr Panganayi Sithole told The Sunday Mail Business that recapitalisation of current power stations will boost power generation levels.

“We have faced power generation problems for a long time but we need to explore new ways to ensure we have enough electricity. We need over US$1,5 billion to recapitalise Hwange power stations and start constructing new power stations at Makomo resources to improve power generation levels from thermal electricity.

“It is not totally correct to say the country should abandon thermal power stations, but there is need to intensively capitalise these coal companies as they are still one of the cheapest sources of power. “To capitalise Hwange is very simple, of the US$10 million that goes to Eskom and Cahorra Bassa, US$5 million should go towards the recapitalisation on a monthly basis. That money will go towards buying and replacing obsolete machinery that are in many power stations.

“With the resuscitation of Hwange and the exploitation of Makomo, other small stations like Harare, Munyati and Bulawayo can be revived due to the abundance of coal that has been in short supply in these areas,” said Mr Sithole.  Hwange, the 14th largest thermal station in Southern Africa with an installed capacity of 920MW, was built in phases and commissioned between 1983 and 1987. Energy experts say although the thermal power plants were renovated along the way, they are now clamouring for modernisation to ensure a reduction in power generation and distribution costs.

He said instead of exploring new ways like solar and methane gas in Lupane, it is not yet known whether these can be used for commercial purposes or not.

ZEC said the country can also move to exploit the existing dams to improve electricity generation. A big problem at Hwange is that it is difficult to form the free-flowing powder required by the station when coal, which is used as fuel, is wet. Zesa spokesman Mr Fullard Gwasira said the problems at Hwange are temporary and they will be coming back into service.

Mr Sithole said: “Though there is a big improvement in hydro electricity generation at Kariba, there is need to exploit other in-land dams like Tokwe Mukosi to start adding its 15MW to the national grid and another dam in Manicaland that can pump up to 30MW.

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