Uncertainty grips solar projects

HARARE - Mystery continues to surround the country’s solar projects after the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) said it is on the market to raise funding for the projects.

The State Procurement Board last year awarded tenders for solar power projects with a combined output of 300 megawatts (MW) to three firms at an estimated cost of $570 million.

The solar projects were awarded to Intratrek Zimbabwe (Gwanda), ZTE Corporation (Insunkamini) and Number 17 Metallurgical China (Munyati) with the understanding that the winning companies would facilitate funding for the projects.

ZPC managing director Noah Gwariro, however, said fundraising for the solar projects is in progress, adding that resumption of pre-commencement works is in progress for the Gwanda solar project. 

“ZPC was requested by the SPB to negotiate all solar projects in view of the downward trends in solar projects,” he said.

Energy minister Samuel Undenge was last week taken to task over the $5 million his ministry paid to a local contractor, Intratrek Zimbabwe, for the Gwanda Solar Power project, which remains in limbo since October 2015.

Undenge admitted that the project had stalled and had been taken over by the Zimbabwe Power Company.

“The tender for the Gwanda solar power project was awarded to a company owned by Wicknell Chivayo) and in the contract there was a provision for the payment of pre-commencement works, which was supposed to be paid to the company for topographical studies and feasibility studies,” he said.

“I don’t know how much was paid for the pre-commencement services such as topographical and feasibility studies. The Zimbabwe Power Company has taken over management of the project,” Undenge added.

National Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda directed the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy to investigate the matter.

“In terms of Standing Orders, the committee is allowed to ask for documentation in order for the matter to be fully distilled. The Committee on Mines and Energy has men and women of integrity; they will have to carry with them the Auditor-General’s report as a point of departure and the minister (Dr Undenge) has to answer,” he said.

ZPC is currently undertaking a multi-million extension of Kariba Power Station by a further 300 megawatts from the current capacity of 750MW. Chinese firm Sino Hydro is undertaking the expansion work, with China also providing the bulk of the $533 million funding.

Zimbabwe’s electricity demand stands at 1 400MW while actual generation is around 980MW with the balance augmented by imports from South Africa and Mozambique.

 

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