'Zimbabwe won't shut down thermal plants yet'

By Staff reporter | 30 Oct 2019 at 11:49hrs
THERMAL plants will not be decommissioned until the electricity situation eases, Energy minister Fortune Chasi has said. This comes as the country is facing severe power outages attributed to antiquated equipment at power stations and low water levels at Kariba, resulting in low generation.

Some of the plants, according to the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), have outlived their lifespan of 30 years and should have been decommissioned years ago.

Munyati and Bulawayo power stations, like many others that were built and commissioned between 1946 to 1957 with installed capacity of 120MW each, are now running with current dependable capacity of 100MW and 30MW, respectively. Chasi, who was speaking at the Financial Gazette Annual Energy Innovations Summit last week, said Zimbabwe could not afford to decommission some of the plants due to the severe power situation.

"While it is true that the movement internationally is away from thermals, we have realities that we need to be cognisant of. The first one is that one of our assets in the generation of power is coal and we are only just now getting into renewable energy.

"So whilst decommissioning is something we have to work towards, our power is being generated around coal, but we are moving away from it at an opportune moment that's why we are talking so much about renewables," he said.

"So just to be clear at this moment in time when we are still importing power, when we are still trying to grow our energy mix, it is not the appropriate time to put decommissioning on the agenda but we do recognise that we have international obligations that we want to comply with and we will endeavour to move away from coal once we have got the necessary substitute," Chasi added.

Meanwhile, the company has embarked on massive expansion projects to help mitigate the power challenges.

However, the Hwange power station unit 7 and 8 expansion project and the Gwanda, Munyati, Gairezi solar projects, which will boost power supply, will only be commissioned between 2022 and 2023 while the Batoka project is expected to start genera- tion in 2027, according to ZPC.

In the meantime, 70 independent power producers (IPPs) with a capacity of 8 080 MW have so far been licensed.

However, these are yet to become operational to boost power supply.



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