In what would be a major boost to the country’s industrialisation and modernisation journey, Hwange Thermal Power Station Units 7 and 8 are almost complete with 88,29 percent of work having been done as at May 31, 2022.
The two units are expected to add 600 megawatts to the national grid when completed, in what would help end power cuts and also satiate the appetite for consistent energy supply to mining companies and lure foreign direct investment.
Since coming to power President Mnangagwa has made infrastructural development his key mandate with power generation the bedrock of both present and future investments.
In that vein, his administration has poured billions of dollars into capacitating power projects that include the Kariba Dam hydroelectricity project that was completed in 2018 and the Hwange Thermal Power expansion.
Also in the pipeline is the Batoka Gorge power project that will see Zimbabwe becoming energy sufficient with enough for exports.
As part of industrialisation, envisaged in the National Development Strategy 1, power is a key pillar as the country moves closer to achieving President Mnangagwa’s Vision for the country to become an upper middle class economy by 2030.
Apart from Hwange Thermal Power Station, the country has an array of power projects that are taking place across the country and are at various stages of completion. These include the Harava Solar Project in Seke and the Geo Pomona waste-to-energy project among a host of projects that will feed into the national power grid.
The completion of the two units at Hwange will thus significantly reduce the power supply deficit and positively impact on Zimbabwe’s energy import bill, with the ultimate goal of the country of becoming a net exporter of power into the region being achieved.
Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) projects site manager, Engineer Forbes Chanakira, said despite setbacks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the expansion project will soon be complete.
“Despite the fact that the project was affected by Covid-19, the project progress currently stands at 88.29 percent as at the end of May 2022,” he said.
“Engineering designs have been completed. Procurement of materials and equipment required for construction now stands at 98 percent, indicating that most of the required goods are now on site and being installed into position.
“Commissioning of most of the completed sub-systems commenced at the beginning of February 2022 and the process is still ongoing. Currently, systems such as the water treatment plant which produces water required for boiler operations are being commissioned.”
Eng Chakanira said the boilers have undergone hydraulic testing and passed and the commissioning of the electrical system was in progress. He also said more than 320 kilometres of transmission lines for power evacuation have been successfully installed.
Eng Chanakira added that the coal handling plant works were at an advanced stage and the plant is expected to start receiving coal very soon.
“Overally, Unit 7 is expected to be brought online on the national grid at the end of November 2022 while Unit 8 will be expected at the end of February 2023. This is assuming there will be no unforeseen circumstances that may affect the realisation of these dates.
“The project is currently employing more than 3 500 local Zimbabweans in various fields of engineering and there is significant skills transfer which is ongoing,” he said.
Eng Chanakira said the commissioning of completed works will continue until September when they will be preparing for the commissioning of the whole unit.
Government recently allayed fears of severe power cuts during winter saying households and businesses would not see prolonged daily outages despite reduced imports.
The electricity deficit was likely to widen after regional utilities Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa of Mozambique and Eskom of South Africa indicated that they will not be able to export power outside firm contracts during winter as they also face huge demand at home.
Zimbabwe imports an average of 400 megawatts from South Africa and Mozambique to narrow the electricity deficit during the winter season.
The country has been battling power shortages for some time which has forced the power utility to resort to load shedding as well as seeking imports from the regionally starved grid but that will all be a thing of the past once the Hwange Expansion is completed.