Cash boost for Kariba hydropower project
THE Export-Import Bank of China, which signed a US$354 million loan agreement with the Zimbabwe government for the expansion of the Kariba South Hydropower Station, has so far released US$175 million to finance the project.
The expansion project is expected to add 300 megawatts (MW) of electricity to the existing power generation capacity and is being undertaken by Chinese contractor, Sino Hydro Corporation.
The plant’s general manager, Kenneth Maswera, revealed the development to the Financial Gazette’s Companies & Markets last week during a tour of the project.
On-site works that include excavation and concrete works were 96 percent and 27 percent complete, while off-site works were 41 percent complete.
These include penstocks, gates, stay ring and shunt reactors.
Overall construction work at the power plant, which commenced in November 2014, has reached almost 50 percent and is expected to be completed in 2018.
Maswera also disclosed that the first unit would start running in December 2017, adding 150 megawatts (MW) to the national grid, while the second unit would start feeding into the national grid in 2018.
Maswera said: “The project is almost 50 percent complete and the Chinese bank has so far released about US$175 million. We expect the first unit to add 150 megawatts to the national grid on the 24th of December 2017, while the second unit will go on the grid on 10 March 2018.”
The power station, completed 54 years ago, has capacity to generate 750MW of electricity, but is currently generating on average 285MW a day due to low water levels at the Kariba Dam.
Water in the dam has, however, now improved to 480,12 meters.
Of this, 65 percent of water is dead storage, leaving a live storage of 33 percent.
Live storage of water is that which can be used for power generation, which means that the dam has almost 4,77 meters of usable water for electricity generation.
The country faces a critical power shortage with local generation unable to meet national demand of 1 600MW.
The country is currently generating about 1 000MW and to cover for the shortfall, the power utility is importing about 300MW of electricity from Eskom of South Africa and 100MW from Hydro Cahora Bassa (HCB) of Mozambique.
HCB is supplying electricity to Zimbabwe on a firm contract basis, which implies that the amount of electricity which Zimbabwe requires from the Mozambican power utility is guaranteed to be available at a given time.
This, however, is not the case with electricity which is being imported from Eskom.
The arrangement with Eskom is not concrete, which means if demand goes up in South Africa, Eskom will not be able to supply electricity to Zimbabwe.
The expansion of the Kariba hydro power plant is one of several projects Zimbabwe is pursuing to close its electricity supply gap.
The Zimbabwe Power Company, a power generation subsidiary of ZESA Holdings, is also working on expanding the country’s largest coal-fired power plant, Hwange Thermal Power Station, which will also be undertaken by Sino Hydro Corporation.
Expansion of Hwange Thermal Power Station would see the thermal power station adding two more units with a combined generation capacity of 600MW.
Zimbabwe is also pursuing other projects to harness power from solar and the US$4,5 billion Batoka Gorge project along the Zambezi River, some 54 kilometres downstream of Victoria Falls.
The multi-billion dollar hydro power project, which is being driven by the Zambezi River Authority, a company jointly owned by the Zimbabwean and Zambian governments, is expected to generate 2 400MW of electricity to be shared equally by the two countries.
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