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Repowering of Hwange Units 1-6 to boost power generation

by Staff reporter
07 Apr 2024 at 10:06hrs | Views
THE Government is stepping up the repowering of Hwange Units One to Six as part of efforts to find a lasting solution to the electricity problem in the country and is working on funding modalities as well as courting local and foreign investors interested in redoing the units.

This comes amid subdued power generation capacity at Kariba Power Station which has been caused by a decline in water levels.

An update by the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) on Thursday revealed that the volume of water in Lake Kariba has been steadily decreasing due to low inflow and reduced rainfall activity on and around the lake.

ZRA noted that the usable live storage volume is 8,8 billion cubic metres (bcm) which is way lower than the 13,9bcm that was available during the same period last year.

Commenting on the developments and their effects on electricity generation in the country, the Minister of Energy and Power Development, Edgar Moyo, said the Government was aware of the subdued power generation at Kariba and was putting measures in place to ensure electricity was available.

He said while they complied with the ZRA allocation, the Government was working on funding modalities to repower Hwange Units One to Six for them to realise their full potential which is 920 megawatts.

Minister Moyo said the six units which were commissioned between 1983 and 1987 have seen their equipment aging and were frequently breaking down and compromising power generation.

"We are keeping to the limit of the water allocation as given by the ZRA which is eight billion cubic metres allocated to Zimbabwe and the same to Zambia. This allows us to generate about 214 megawatts which is way below our installed capacity at Kariba which is 1 050 megawatts.

"What it means is that we have lost 800 megawatts capacity which is almost 50 percent of our requirement as a nation.

"We now have low generation at Kariba but not all is lost because we continue to conduct refurbishments and repairs on Units One to Six to improve the capacity at Hwange Thermal Power Station.

"The repairs are temporary, they keep us going, but the long-term solution is to re-do or repower them so that they reach their full potential. By repowering, we mean that we will be installing new equipment," said Minister Moyo.

He said several investors have expressed interest in taking up the project but could not give the timelines saying they were subject to the availability of funds.

"We cannot give specific timelines. Currently, we are working on the funding. You will be aware that these are huge projects which require capital injection which we may not have the capacity to provide. We are also exploring funding through partnerships with local companies if they express interest. It is an open programme; it's not confined to a specific funder. Whatever comes and suits our purpose it will be done.

"Several investors have also expressed interest, they have come to inspect and we still await their feedback in terms of taking up those units. Two weeks back, we had investors coming from China. This came after I led a delegation to China in January scouting for investments in the different sectors of the energy sector and the company which came two weeks ago  expressed interest. It made a follow-up visit to come and see the Hwange Power plant and other projects.

"They also want to do 200 megawatts of solar. So it is an ongoing thing that we continue to engage, explore and once we sign a deal, you will be advised," said Minister Moyo.

Minister Moyo said it was encouraging that there were several Independent Power Producers (IPP) coming on board with solar projects of different magnitude.

He said going forward, they expected to have more plants coming on board something he said would lessen dependence on thermal and hydro power generation.

He said the power supply had improved especially as from last week although there was a deficit of 300 megawatts which explains the shedding that the country was going through.

Plans to repower Units 1 to 6 of Hwange Thermal Power Station follow the successful expansion of Units 7 and 8 at a cost of US$1.5 billion. The units have a combined capacity of 600 megawatts and they have helped ease electricity shortages in the country as well as drive the realisation of Vision 2030 through improved industrialisation as espoused in the NDS1.

Repowering Hwange Units 1-6 has several potential benefits for power generation in Zimbabwe. Here are some of them:

Increased Power Generation Capacity: Repowering involves installing new equipment and upgrading existing infrastructure, which can significantly enhance the power generation capacity of Hwange Units 1-6. This increased capacity can help address the  electricity deficit in the country and reduce dependence on other sources of power.

Enhanced Reliability: The aging equipment and frequent breakdowns of Hwange Units 1-6 have been compromising power generation.

By repowering these units, the reliability of the power supply can be improved. Upgraded and modernised equipment is expected to operate more efficiently and  have a reduced risk of failures, leading to more consistent power generation.

Diversification of Power Sources: Zimbabwe has been heavily reliant on hydroelectric power generation, particularly from the Kariba Power Station. However, declining water levels in the Zambezi River have affected power generation from this source. Repowering Hwange Units 1-6 provides an opportunity to diversify the country's power sources by strengthening its thermal power generation capabilities, and reducing vulnerability to fluctuations in water levels and weather conditions.

Energy Security: By repowering Hwange Units 1-6, Zimbabwe can improve its energy security. The increased power generation capacity will help meet the growing energy demand of industries, businesses and households, reducing the need for power imports and potential electricity shortages. This can contribute to a more stable and reliable energy supply in the  country.

Economic Development: A reliable and sufficient power supply is crucial for economic growth and industrial development. Repowering Hwange Units 1-6 can provide a boost to the economy by supporting existing industries and attracting new investments. Improved power generation capacity can stimulate industrial production, create job opportunities and foster economic stability and prosperity.

Environmental Considerations: While thermal power generation is associated with greenhouse gas emissions, repowering Hwange Units 1-6 can potentially lead to more efficient and cleaner operations. Modern equipment and technologies can help reduce emissions and enhance environmental sustainability compared to older, less efficient units. Additionally, diversifying the power generation mix can contribute to a more balanced and environmentally friendly energy portfolio.

Overall, repowering Hwange Units 1-6 offers the potential for increased power generation, improved reliability, energy security, economic development and environmental considerations, all of which can contribute to a more sustainable and prosperous future for Zimbabwe.

Source - The Sunday News
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