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RioZim solar projects to power 10% of national grid

By Business Reporter – Friday 31 January 2020

HARARE (Mining Index) – WITH a national electricity demand of 2400 MW per day, RioZim’s planned solar projects are expected to meet 10 percent of Zimbabwe’s power demand through establishment of four solar power stations that have a combined capacity of 214 megawatts (MW).

This week, the Zimbabwe Energy and Regulatory Authority (ZERA) acknowledged receipt of four applications made by RioZim’s subsidiaries to construct, own, operate and maintain solar power stations at different locations that will provide power to the group’s gold and diamond mining operations.

The Cam & Motor solar PV power plant will have a capacity of 54 MW, Renco 38.04 MW, Dalny 54 MW and Murowa 68.4 MW.

RioZim says while some of the electricity will be channelled towards its mining operations, the remainder will be sold to the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC).

RioZim’s Group CEO Bhekinkosi Nkomo commented;

“Definitely, it’s the largest project in the country and everyone is going in that direction. You know we have serious power shortages and it becomes the largest inland source of clean energy. We are relying on imports and it’s a solution which needs to be supported.”

Zimbabwe has one hydro power plant and four coal-fired generators with a total combined capacity of 2240 MW, against an average production of less than 1000 MW per day which has resulted in most parts of the country experiencing load shedding for up to 18 hours a day. To bridge the gap, Zimbabwe has been supplementing its power need through imports from South Africa and Mozambique.

In its 2019 third quarter trading update for the three months ended 30 September 2019, RioZim cited acute electricity challenges as one of the bottlenecks affecting its operations.

The RioZim solar project will also include construction of 132 kV transmission lines from all proposed solar plants to respective substations.

According to ZERA, licence application by RioZim subsidiaries was done in terms of the provisions of Section 42 and 46 of the Electricity Act (Chapter 13:19).

In May 2018, RioZim signed a US$210 million agreement with Chinese infrastructure development company, China Gezhouba Group International Engineering Corporation (CGGC) towards the construction of solar power plants with combined output of 178 megawatts.

The past decade has seen Zimbabwe signing at least six power generation agreements, including solar power that would have added more than 3,000 MW in new electricity to the grid, but the projects failed to take off due to bureaucracy and lack of funding.

In October 2019, Blanket Mine announced plans to install a solar power plant to reduce electricity dependence on the national grid saying advanced engineering work was underway with the application for relevant regulatory approvals in progress after which a tender process from interested parties to build and operate the project will be embarked on. ENDS//

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