If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that it’s important to diversify our energy sources. Can you imagine where we would be if our hopes and dreams were in hydroelectric power alone? Kariba has been struggling to generate enough power due to changes in rainfall patterns and droughts.
The 600MW that our brand spanking new units at Hwange are producing (or should be producing) could not be more appreciated.
However, our biggest sin in putting eggs in one basket is not in our choice of energy sources. No, it is in our reliance on one electricity producer. For too long we have relied on one organisation – ZESA – and that has not really worked out well for us.
That is slowly changing. The change is driven by necessity as ZESA has failed to perform but at this point, who cares how it came about? What’s important is that we are getting more and more power producers.
We have households hoisting solar panels atop their houses and relying less and less on the national grid. That’s good to see. However, what about industry? They can’t really grab the cheap Chinese solar panels that dominate the market and produce enough electricity to run their (oftentimes older and inefficient) machinery.
Businesses are now investing in their own power production, and some new businesses are emerging with the sole purpose of sourcing and supplying electricity to other businesses.
The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority recently notified us of some applications by organisations that wish to do just that.
100MW wind farm
Centragale (Pvt) Ltd wants to construct, own, operate and maintain a 100MW wind farm at Mamina, Mhondor Ngezi. The electricity generated will be sold to Dinson Iron and Steel Company.
A new substation will have to be built as well as a 30km line to carry the electricity from the wind farm to the substation.
Now, this is great on many fronts. 100MW is a significant amount of electricity. The country’s electricity demand in summer is around 1400MW or so and so that one wind farm would produce just over 7% of national demand.
We can look at it another way and say by saying Dinson Iron and Steel Company’s 100MW demand will not need to be met by the national grid. So, national demand could be considered to be 1300MW if the wind farm is successfully built.
A new substation and a 30-kilometre transmission line will be needed to connect the wind farm to the national grid. That, in addition to the wind farm itself, will be a significant investment, so it is good to see this application.
The wind farm will generate 100 megawatts (MW) of electricity. This is a significant contribution to the country’s electricity supply, which is currently around 1400 MW in the summer. Looked at another way…
The wind farm would reduce the national electricity demand by 100 MW, as the Dinson Iron and Steel Company will no longer need to draw electricity from the grid. This would free up capacity on the grid for other users.
Overall, the wind farm is a positive development for the country’s electricity supply. It will provide a reliable source of renewable energy and help to reduce the country’s reliance on ZESA and Hwange’s dirty coal.
100MW coal-fired plant
Manhize Resources wants to construct, own, operate and maintain a 100MW coal-fired thermal plant in Manhize, Mvuma. The electricity generated will be for own consumption at Dinson Iron and Steel Plant.
That’s Dinson mentioned again. How much power can one organisation need? Well, that’s the price of increased productivity. Hence why the cry is that our electricity woes are worsening the economic situation in Zimbabwe.
Dinson is the new kid on the block, the Chinese answer to the once mighty ZiscoSteel. Dinson plans to produce 20 million tonnes of carbon steel annually by the year 2030. They are building a US$1.5 billion plant in Mvuma.
It is good to see that Dinson will not be burdening an already struggling national grid. It appears they are constructing their own 100MW plant and procuring 100MW from the wind farm above. They may still produce any abalance from the national grid but this 200MW is mucho appreciado.
So, that means electricity demand is set to grow by whatever Dinson will need. However, we have new power producers to meet some of that demand. You love to see it.
If ZiscoSteel were a bastion of excellence I would have concerns about this Chinese-owned plant but as it stands, I welcome it with three arms.
3.5MW solar plant
After looking at 100MW projects, 3.5MW feels like child’s play. It is not. In Zimbabwe where homes don’t have air conditioners, that could power over 3000 homes.
Distributed Power Africa wants to construct, own, operate and maintain a 3.5MW solar photovoltaic plant in Harare. The electricity generated will be sold to Varun Beverages.
Retail electric suppliers
These are companies that want to take on some of the duties ZESA had. They want to source and supply electricity and I couldn’t be happier to see them apply for licences.
ZimGreenCo Power Services and Intensive Energy User Solutions applied for electricity retail supply licences. These licences would authorise them to purchase, sell, and trade electricity in order to supply their customers.
ZimGreenCo intends to purchase power from various sources including independent power producers and sell to its customers.
Intensive Energy User Solutions is a special purpose vehicle for energy users that require stable, predictable, reliable and uninterrupted base load energy supply. This includes mining and industrial consumers.
From paper to reality
Bringing an idea to reality is a challenging process. It is possible that none of the proposed projects will be successful. However, I am optimistic that at least one of them will succeed.
We talked about what the government is doing to make sure projects like these succeed. You can find out more about that here: Zim could meet 50% of electricity demand using solar by 2025, says govt. From which projects?
That’s more eggs off the ZESA basket. Does this mean we are seeing the ZESA monopoly crumble before our very eyes? In a way, yes. With every IPP licensed, the ZESA monopoly loses a tooth.
We are on the right road now. Above you see a wind farm, a coal-powered thermal plant and a solar plant. That’s 3 different energy sources right there. And that’s 3 different organisations generating electricity.
We need to see more of this. Imagine a Zimbabwe where ZESA is free to export and earn valuable forex because independent power producers satisfy local demand. A man can dream.