ZESA engages sister utilities on power plan

October 22, 2021

BUSINESS REPORTER

Stung by the ban on the financing of new coal-powered stations, power utility ZESA Holdings has turned to renewable energy but on an energy banking model in conjunction with sister utilities in Zambia and Mozambique, it emerged this week.

China recently halted the financing of new thermal stations which have been singled as a major polluter of the environment. The ban will affect Zimbabwe which has 26bn tonnes of coal reserves which will last for 834 years with the current rate of consumption.

ZESA executive chairman Sydney Gata said there are issues that make renewables not an immediate plan B for Zimbabwe as the technology is imported and that  there is a limit to which it can deploy renewables, particularly, photovoltaic solar and wind energy which are the most popular ones. Eskom has 800MW of wind energy and when the eastern winds suddenly drop in pressure, it has a huge issue.

Gata said renewables are more secure in a system if it comes with storage like green hydrogen but the technology is alien to Zimbabwe.

“We are however very fortunate to have a God given massive storage on the Kafue-Zambezi catchment area. All in all we can generate 14,500MW from the 10 gorges on the Kafue-Zambezi catchment complex,” Gata said.

“As we sit today, we are in strategic relationships with Mozambican government and Zambian government to try to develop a complex which we want to call CARE [Central Africa Renewable Energy] which will involve all the hydro stations. I know that some of them have gotten an environmental issue and therefore they will be considered in that line.”

He said if the projects are developed together and are operated in a sequence in which a catchment system is operated rather than individual reservoirs following catchment rules rather than the reservoir rules, “you can harvest more than a 1000MW benefit without any additional investment by organising the way you operate them”.

“We are in dialogue with our sister utilities in Zambia and Mozambique. Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique were the countries with the first three utilities to form the Southern African Power Pool,” Gata said.

He said the project has an additional advantage in that it can be used as a natural battery.

“You can store energy in the system by shutting down hydro turbines especially in the catchment portion of the complex, being Cabora Bassa, Mupata and Kariba which have very significant storage. You can shut down Kariba during the day, use the sun and open the turbines at night. We call it energy banking. You can bank nearly 15000MW of renewables in this complex,” Gata said.

China’s ban on funding coal-fired projects has seen a facility for Munyati being cancelled. Gata said he had a chat with Indian Ambassador on the Asian nation’s position on coal fired power stations. They do not have a position, he said. India is funding works on Bulawayo thermal power station.

Gata said China has said the ban will not affect existing contracts.

He said Titan Power Station wanted to construct a 600MW thermal power station.

“They approached us last week that they can’t do it anymore. No bank in China is allowed to fund this kind of project. Can you imagine where we will be going if we didn’t have this,” Gata said

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