Covid-19 dims Old Mutual solar plan


Old Mutual Zimbabwe is expected to commission its US$2.5m solar project next year after failing to meet an earlier deadline as it faced delays in procuring key components due to disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, an executive has said.

Initially, the proposed 650kilowatt solar project at its head office, was supposed to be completed in August this year.

But Samuel Matsekete, Old Mutual Zimbabwe’s CEO, told Business Times last week the financial services group faced disruptions to its supply chain due to Covid-19 although the projects remain a top priority for the firm.

The Covid-19 pandemic triggered a global lockdown as countries imposed restrictions on the movement of people to combat the spread of the virus.

“This [Covid-19 disruptions] has ultimately led to delays in procurement of core components of the project as well as commencement of the civil works on site.

The project commissioning is now expected in the first quarter of 2021,” Matsekete said, adding it would make the head office self-sufficient and feed excess power into the national grid.

He said the project will save the financial services group in terms of its electricity bill. Assuming stage 3 load shedding, the financial services group would save US$47,500 monthly.

Matsekete said the rollout of the solar project at its offices countrywide would be subject to viability tests as some of Old Mutual properties “do not have the ideal characteristics for harvesting solar energy such as adequate installation space and design of rooftops”.

Old Mutual is also running its Eastgate shopping mall which opened recently on solar. It is generating about 100kw of electricity.

Apart from that, the company operates Kupinga mini-hydro Plant in Chipinge which was commissioned in 2017 and generates 1.6 megawatts of electricity.

The project was financed to the tune of US$1.5m. Local companies are turning to solar due to power cuts which force firms to turn to other alternative expensive sources such as from diesel powered generators which pushes up the cost of production thereby making them uncompetitive.

In August, the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange commissioned a solar plant which will result in the bourse saving US$42,000 annually.

New York Stock Exchange listed Caledonia Mining Corporation will turn to solar at Blanket Mine after raising US$13m to fund the 12MW project to guarantee adequate power supplies required to ramp up output.

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