Four firms shortlisted for 300MW solar project

HARARE - Zimbabwe has shortlisted four companies for the construction of a combined 300 megawatt (MW) solar power plant, with the winner expected to be announced “later in the year”, a senior official has said.

Charles Kuwaza (pictured), the State Procurement Board (SPB) executive chairman, told journalists yesterday that his organisation was currently adjudicating on the four solar project documents to come up with a winner.

“We are now proceeding to the next stage of reviewing the four applications and it is still work in progress,” he said.

Initially six companies – Lanlake Power, Number 17 Metallurgical, Afriven Investments, China Jiangxi Corporation Ltd, ZTE Corporation and Intratrek Zimbabwe – had applied for the solar tender.

Although Kuwaza could not be drawn to divulge when the winner would be announced, he noted that the SPB — a State entity tasked with vetting contracts for national projects — was “trying as hard as we can to finalise the tender”.

This comes as the country last year cancelled tenders for the construction of multi-million-dollar solar energy plants, after disagreements with the bidding contractors.

The decision, announced by the SBP, reversed plans to use off-grid and renewable energy as a way to deal with power shortages that have stalked the country for more than a decade.

The solar park, which was due to be built within nine months to a year in Gwanda, was predicted to be one of the biggest in Africa, supplying power to thousands of homes.

In early 2014, Zimbabwe announced the awarding of tenders to three companies to construct solar power plants, expected to generate 300MW of electricity.

Initially, tenders for 100MW of power generating capacity were invited, and a $184 million contract awarded to China Jiangxi Corporation.

However, the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), a State-owned parastatal, later intervened and said 300MW of capacity should be bid to meet the country’s energy needs.

The two losing bidders were then invited to construct the remaining 200MW of needed capacity, even though their initial bids had been much higher.

Intratrek, a local firm which partnered with Chinese investors, had submitted a tender for $248 million to build  a 100MW of power plant, while another consortium of local business people bid $358 million to build 100MW of capacity.

The tender was later cancelled after the three companies demanded a re-costing of the project which would have seen ZPC paying $720 million instead of $549 million.

However, there have been serious concerns from various stakeholders over government’s delay in re-awarding the tender — more than six months after it re-opened — to alleviate electricity shortages in the country.

According to Zesa Holdings, electricity generation in Zimbabwe has remained subdued, averaging 1 200 MW against national demand which currently stands at 2 200MW.

The country has continued to experience power supply shortfalls since 2007 resulting in daily load shedding across the country.

Experts say the supply shortfalls have serious repercussions on the recovery of the productive sectors of the economy such as manufacturing, agriculture, mining and tourism, which government wants to drive the country’s economic recovery.

Presently, most households and industries in Zimbabwe are subjected to between three to eight hours of load shedding daily because of lack of investment in power generation since independence in 1980.

Energy analysts contend that only about 30 percent of the country has access to grid electricity. No new power generation plants have been built in the country since Kariba in the early 1960s and Hwange thermal power station which was completed in 1986.

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