Kariba South project nears completion

Kariba South project nears completion
Published: 28 September 2017
Commissioning of the first power generating unit under the $533 million Kariba South extension project, is expected in the second week of December, while the plant is scheduled to start feeding 150 megawatts into the national grid before year-end.

Construction work on the whole project is 92 percent complete.

Kariba South, a 750MW plant completed in 1962, is undergoing expansion of its generating capacity through addition of two more generating units, 7 and 8, as part of efforts to increase local power output to close the deficit.

State power utility, Zesa Holdings through its generation arm; Zimbabwe Power Company, awarded an engineering procurement and construction contract to Chinese company Sino Hydro to undertake the capacity extension.

The extension will be undertaken at an EPC cost of $355 million, but the total cost to completion is estimated to reach $533 million, including development costs such as consultancy, statutory payments and equity input.

ZPC told our Harare Bureau this week that progress on the capacity extension project had reached 92 percent and that commissioning of the first generator, unit 7, was scheduled to start in the second week of December.

Unit 7 is expected to start feeding power onto the national grid on December 24, 2017, while unit 8 would come online on March 19 next year. The two equal units will produce combined output of 300MW.

"The project is at 92 percent towards completion. We are on course. We will be carrying out a 7-day test run for Unit 7, which will start on December  15 this year.  December 24, 2017 will mark the switching on of Unit 7 to the national grid, thereby adding 150MW of power," ZPC said.

Completion of the Kariba South capacity extension project, will significantly shore up Zimbabwe's internal power generation, which currently stands at an average of 1 100MW against average demand at peak periods of 1 400MW.

Zimbabwe has not invested in major power projects since completing the 920MW Hwange thermal power plant, which now experiences frequent breakdowns and produces way below its capacity,.

Further, an additional 300MW will mean consistent or guaranteed supply to substitute a similar amount of power being imported from Eskom of South Africa to bridge the deficit, but which cost Zimbabwe between $7 million to $10 million weekly. Zimbabwe also imports about 50MW from Hydro Cahora Bassa of Mozambique.

Eskom has frequently threatened to switch off ZESA over its failure to clear over $43 million in arrears for power supplies. The Zimbabwe power utility has struggled to meet its obligations.

Harare owes about $100 million in total from the electricity imports.

Zimbabwe uses a basket of currencies dominated by the greenback, but is facing foreign currency crisis due to rising demand for foreign currency for essnetial raw materials for local manufacture, little foreign direct investment and closed foreign lines of credit.

The electricity deficit has serious repercussions on the recovery of productive sectors of the economy such as manufacturing, mining and agriculture, which Government wants to drive the country's economic recovery.

However, electricity imports from the regional countries; Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa, enabled Zimbabwe to avoid previous debilitating rolling power cuts through rationing, which at times affected particular areas for days on end. Zimbabwe has not had blackouts since early last year.

While the country has made progress in increasing its internal power generation capacity, it might also have to contend with constraints posed by limited availability of water following the severe low rainfall experienced in 2015. This depleted Lake Kariba water levels, which affected power generation.

The Zambezi River Authority, which regulates activities on and along the river, responded by rationing the amount of water each of the power station use to produce power.

While water levels have improved, they remain lower than is normal.

"We have reached a period where the inflows from the catchment areas are at their lowest before the start of the 2017 /18 rainy season.

"The dam level as of September 21, 2017, was 482,14m against a level of 479,23m on the same day in 2016. Kariba was created and designed to operate between (water) levels 475,50m and 488,50m with 0,70m freeboard at all times," ZPC said.

- chronicle
Tags: Kariba,


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