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UK firm to invest in Bulawayo renewable energy

by Staff reporter
12 Feb 2021 at 05:39hrs | Views
BULAWAYO has lined up a number of renewable energy development projects worth millions of United States dollars, which are set to transform the city's economy and impact positively on the country's re-industrialisation drive.

Enhanced energy efficiency is critical to attracting formidable investment for Bulawayo, as the city thrives to retain its status as the country's manufacturing hub.

Local and foreign investors have already expressed their interest to champion solar and waste to energy projects, which are expected to be implemented in the short-to-medium term. The drive towards renewable energy is also in keeping with the global climate change mitigation efforts, which encourage adoption of environmentally friendly energy sources.

A United Kingdom renewable energy company, Naanovo Energy Inc, has said it is ready to commence construction of two solar plants in Bulawayo and Harare at a cost of US$250 million but has been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which frustrated arrival of company officials to kickstart the projects last year.

The UK company signed a partnership deal with Zimbabwe in 2019 during a British Africa Business Alliance (BABA) summit held in Britain.

The City of Kings is also awaiting implementation of the US$150 million waste to energy project after signing the deal with Pragma Leaf Consulting Zimbabwe (Pvt) Limited sometime in 2018.

The investment will see establishment of a biogas conversion plant in the city, which will create more downstream opportunities. More proposals for solar projects are being looked into with companies such as Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC), also expressing interest to join the drive. The successful implementation of these projects is set to transform Bulawayo into a smart city and assist realisation of the Government's Vision 2030.

As the world adjusts to surviving with Covid-19 pandemic in mind, Naanovo Energy Inc said it was now working towards bringing its team to the ground.

In an interview from his United Kingdom base, Naanovo Energy Inc vice-chairman for Europe and Africa, Mr Anthony Fiddy, said if it was not for Covid-19, his team would have arrived in the country last year. He said his company was now making adjustments as it moves to implement the projects.

"We will be investing in three Bulawayo projects in the region of US$130 million dollars and the other project outside Harare we are budgeting US$120 million," said Mr Fiddy.

"These projects will create energy, employment and we qualify for carbon credits so we would be keeping the environment clean."

He said his company was seized with preparing certain documents from the funder and impact assessments but Covid-19 was delaying things.

"For example, I can't travel; my staff can't travel, so I would like to think we will start constructing this year," said Mr Fiddy.

"We will be constructing three to four renewable energy projects in Zimbabwe, three in Bulawayo and one just outside Harare. There will be initially two solar projects, one of 10MW and another of 50MW."

Mr Fiddy said his company will bring the technology and technical staff to implement the projects, which will run under the build operate and transfer arrangement.

"We will run those plants for 25 years selling the power to the Government and at the end of 25 years we will give those plants to the people of Zimbabwe through the power company.

"We will create employment for the local people on solar projects for between 100 to 150 people," he said.

Mr Fiddy also said his company wants to set up a waste to energy recycling plants but the deal hangs in the balance as they were yet to finalise the matter with Bulawayo City Council. Town clerk Mr Christopher Dube described Naanovo Energy Inc as a serious company with a financial muscle to implement the projects.

"We are aware of this company. They are serious people, they have got the money and have done everything possible including the feasibility study," he said.

"What has happened is that BABA has connected us to other investors and Naanovo is one of the investors who had seen opportunities and offered to do electricity generation and turning worst to energy.

"They have indicated that they have US$120 million for the project but unfortunately, we have not been forthcoming because we have a similar contract with another investor. That contract was entered into in 2017 but that investor has not taken off for whatever reason."

He said while the council has been inconvenienced by the investor, it could not abruptly terminate the contract as there are legal implications.

"However, Naanovo was given a solar farm by Umguza Rural District Council under the Bulawayo-BABA Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)," he said.

Mr Dube said council was also involved in negotiations with four different investors over setting up of solar plants but was not in a position to speak of those power projects.

While PPC managing director Mr Kelibone Masiyane, could not be immediately reached for comment, his company is already pursuing a 32MW solar project in Gwanda's Colleen Bawn with plans to set up a similar project in Bulawayo in the long term.

Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube said Government was optimistic that the investment projects will start soon.

"We need as a province to contribute to Gross Domestic Product and this project is important. When we have electricity challenges, with solar farms around, it will be better for us as a province and a country.

"These investors were supposed to have arrived last year in April but had to defer their plans due to Covid-19 but want to implement some of the projects without fail this year," said Minister Ncube.

"Now that we are living in an abnormal situation, we need to come up with ways and means in which we can manage the situation around us.

"We now know that there is this pandemic and, therefore, we need to be approaching some of these programmes as we can't sit back."

Source - chronicle