Government has revealed plans to replace the use of diesel at its aging thermal power plants with gas, which will be a significantly cheaper source of energy, Business Times can report.
State-controlled power utility ZESA operates thermal power stations in Hwange, Bulawayo, Munyati and Harare and uses expensive diesel in the process to generate electricity.
Well-placed source at Hwange Power Station who attended last week’s meeting held in the mining town where Energy and Power Development Minister, Soda Zhemu, disclosed the plan told Business Times that the newly appointed energy minister said government was expediting the plan to cut off the use of diesel at power plants, opening the door for natural gas for electricity generation.
It is understood that Zhemu visited some of the registered gas miners in the Matabeleland North Province last week.
“At a meeting here (Hwange Power Station) last week, the minister (Soda Zhemu) said there were plans to replace the use of diesel with gas at all power stations,” the source told Business Times this week.
Efforts to get a comment from Zhemu were futile. A WhatsApp message was sent on his mobile phone.
But he had not responded by the time of going to print.
Subsequent calls to his mobile phone continuously went unanswered.
It could not be immediately established how much would be saved from the use of gas. It is estimated that Zimbabwe is home to huge deposits of coal-bed methane gas in the Hwange, Lupane and Gwayi areas in Matabeleland North.
However, their commercial viability has not yet been supported by geological information.
At least five mining companies including Shangani Energy Exploration and Tumagole have been granted special grants to mine gas in the Lupane area.
And efforts are currently underway to exploit the strategic energy source.
Zimbabwe’s power plants have for years now been operating below capacity due to old age.
There have been plans to re-power the Bulawayo, Munyati and Harare power stations as part of efforts to ease electricity shortages in the country.
Zimbabwe has three major coal miners which supply the fossil fuel to ZESA.
These are Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL), Zambezi Gas and Makomo Resources, which has grown over the years to become the largest coal miner in Zimbabwe.
The coal miners, however, have been threatening to cut supplies to ZESA because the power utility owes the miners more than ZWL$60m.
It is also understood that a 25 year coal supply deal signed between HCCL and ZESA is hanging in the balance after the government withdrew the coal miner’s concessions in the Western Area coal fields.