By Golden Sibanda
Zimbabwe has edged closer to getting its first major independent power station following revelations that diversified miner, RioZim, has posted significant milestones towards completing preparatory works for its longstanding US$2,2 billion Sengwa power plant to be built in Gokwe North.
The 2400 megawatts project is an integral part of Government’s goal to guarantee security of power supply and ensure self-sufficiency on electricity by facilitating investment in power generation by independent producers such, as RioZim.
Zimbabwe needs an average of 1 600 megawatts at peak periods of demand for power, but is currently only able to deliver an average of 1 400MW to 1600MW due to constrained generating capacity caused by old and antiquated power infrastructure, especially base-load plant Hwange.
Power shortages are bridged with imports, which require the elusive foreign currency and power rationing, which disrupts industry and household activities.
Sengwa is among several independent power projects (IPPs) licensed by the regulator, Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) over the past few years, as Government took deliberate steps to placate the crippling power shortage in the country.
Significant progress has been made since the gold and diamond miner, RioZim, signed an exclusivity agreement with Power China in September last year, paving way for the start of preparatory works for construction of the plant.
Power China was among six shortlisted prospective investors that included United States electrical systems behemoth General Electric (GE), for the project.
A company source, who sits on the RioZim board, said that the contractor for the project, Chinese State owned firm, Power China — a sister company of Sinohydro-had already completed the plans for the water pick up site in Kariba.
Further, Power China has reportedly completed mapping out the route for the water pipeline that will transport water needed for cooling at the coal fired power station in Sengwa.
Efforts to get a comment from RioZim Limited group chief executive officer Bheki Nkomo, were unsuccessful by the time of going to print, but sources privy to the developments said that everything on Sengwa power project was on full throttle and the relationship with Power China had been smooth.
“Things are moving. We are working very well with Power China on the project in Gokwe. We have almost completed the plans to pick up water in Kariba.
“Our target is that by end of June this year we should have completed drawing up the Bill of Quantities for the project, so we are getting under the radar,” the source said, adding plans were afoot to start developing a town in the area.
The source also said RioZim had engaged the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing to facilitate with the planning of the residential town and all other critical infrastructure that will be required by workers and the company once the power station comes to fruition.
Further, RioZim has also initiated the process of getting a special economic zone status (SEZ) for the Sengwa power project, which will bring a number of benefits for the project. “Everything pertaining to the project, we are on full throttle,” the source said.
Officials of Power China are reportedly already on the ground and in the process of preparing the Bill of Quantities on the water pipeline and evacuation power lines. They are also updating details on two issues as required by financiers of the project in China.
Power China is a sister company of Sinohydro, which undertook the US$533 million expansion of Kariba South and also landed the contract to carry out the US$1,4 billion Hwange Power Station’s Unit 7 and 8 extension.
“The bank wanted to know the cost of the water pipeline from Kariba to Sengwa, so they are currently costing out that, then the cost of evacuation lines from Sengwa to Sherwood, they wanted proper costing,” said another source.
Upon completion, Sengwa will be among Zimbabwe’s three biggest power plants, including the 2 400 MW Batoka being jointly pursued by Zambia and Zimbabwe, 900MW Hwange plant (under expansion) and 1050MW Kariba South station.
Further, the envisaged thermal power project will be fed from RioZim’s coal claims, which are understood to hold more than 1,3 billion tonnes of the commodity.
Over the years, the company has been struggling to secure funds for the project. The Sunday Mail