Golden Sibanda in Hwange
Real construction work has begun on the US$1,4 billion Hwange Power Station 7 and 8 expansion project, following the first pour of concrete into the foundation of the power house which will accommodate two generators of the new power plant, on Friday last week.
When complete, the project will add 600 megawatts to the national power grid, and is anticipated to create over 3000 jobs at the peak of its implementation in 2021.
Hwange Power Station which has an installed capacity of 920MW, is Zimbabwe’s biggest base-load power station, but comes second after Kariba South, which is a peaking plant, in terms of installed generation capacity.
A base-load plant carries the supply load during both peak and low demand periods while a peaking plant is mostly used to help carry the power demand load when consumption is highest or there is a deficit or emergency caused by faults.
The plant’s installed production potential will rise to 1520MW once the extension project has been completed in just over three years (42 months).
While the country’s dependence on imports declined significantly after the completion of Kariba South expansion in March last year, the country still expends some foreign currency importing power to bridge the supply deficit that still exits.
Implementation of the Hwange Power Station stage 3 expansion project, which entails construction of 2x300MW generators, commenced in August last year following the groundbreaking ceremony officiated by President Mnangagwa.
Sinohydro, which successfully undertook the 300MW expansion of Kariba South Power Station at an estimated cost of US$533 million, was awarded the contract for Hwange Power Station units 7 and 8.
Construction works for the capacity extension project are scheduled to take 42 months to January 2022, at which point Zimbabwe is expected to have stable internal power generation and supply capacity to support a growing economy.
Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo accompanied by his deputy Magna Mudyiwa and Secretary for Energy Engineer Gloria Magombo were at Hwange Power Station to witness the first pour of concrete for the start of real construction works (the power house) on the Hwange capacity extension project.
Minister Gumbo said the process of laying the foundation for the power house signified the commencement of real construction works in a journey “to the Promised Land”, which is security of electricity supply.
The minister said the project complemented Government efforts already underway to recover and grow the economy towards upper middle income status by 2030, a vision President Mnangagwa has already enunciated.
“I am very excited that a number of benefits are going to be derived from this project, which will have a positive impact on the economy.
“Construction materials for the civil engineering works such as sand, quarry, cement and timber will be sourced closer to the project site where possible, thereby benefiting the local business community.
“Already, the project has employed 450 people from the surrounding locations, a figure which is expected to rise to 3 000 at the project peak in July 2021,” he said.
This was corroborated by Zimbabwe Power Company project manager engineer Edmond Mukahadira who also indicated that a total of 360 people would be employed for operation and maintenance of the plant once completed, in January 2022.
“At project peak, which is expected to be April 2021, we anticipate to have 3 000 local people working on the project and 360 on maintenance and operation of the plant once the project has been completed,” said engineer Mukahadira said.
Minister Gumbo said the US$1,4 billion project had seen considerable progress on the ground and was well on schedule for completion within time and budget.
China Eximbank provided 85 percent of the funding for the project while ZPC, as the developer, mobilised 15 percent of the funding as equity contribution.
It is expected that the capacity extension project will increase the country’s internal power generation, stability of supply and reduce dependency on imports at a time the country is facing acute shortage of hard currency.
Engineer Mukahadira said Hwange Power Station will benefit local industry, with 10 percent (US$117 million) of the engineering, procurement and construction contract, expected to be spent locally on materials.
Further, 6 500 tonnes of coal will be required daily when the new power plant comes into operation, with a million tonnes needed on commissioning.
It is also expected that 30 percent of the project would have been completed by end of this year, taking progress today since last year to about 38 percent.
Zimbabwe requires 1 600MW while internal generation capacity stands at an average of 1 400MW and 1 500MW, which is often interrupted by reliability issues at Hwange, which has outlived it’s lifespan.
At the height of power shortages in Zimbabwe, the country imported an average of 350-450MW from Mozambique and South Africa, which required between US$30 million and US$40 million of scarce foreign currency.