According to a senior government source, the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) is anticipated to complete financial agreements with an Indian contractor this month, allowing the Bulawayo Thermal Power Station re-powering project to begin in the first quarter of 2022. The plant is one of the country’s oldest, having been built by the Municipality of Bulawayo between 1947 and 1957 with an original installed capacity of 120MW.
Despite having 11kV and 33kV cables connecting it to the national grid, the power station’s contribution to the grid is limited, needing refurbishment to give it a new lease of life. Due to ageing plant equipment, the power station’s generating capacity has dwindled over time, with output dropping to around 30MW per day from a revised 90MW capacity and zero production on some days due to operational constraints. In 2015, the government secured an initial finance pledge of US$ 87 million from the India Exim Bank to fund the repowering project, with a further US$ 23 million package bringing the total investment to US$ 110 million. However, in recent years, achieving financial closure, completing tender processes, and signing contracts have taken longer, delaying project completion.
Financing and Tendering of the Bulawayo Thermal Power Station
In a recent interview, Dr Gloria Magombo, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, acknowledged the delays but stated that work procurement and contract negotiations were now complete, paving the way for project deployment early next year. The Bulawayo re-powering project obtained two US$ 110 million lines of credit from the India Exim Bank, according to Dr Magombo. The project’s procurement procedure was completed, and contract negotiations with the winning bidder (BHEL of India) were concluded. The contract with BHEL must now be signed, together with financing arrangements for the total contract amount that have been confirmed. ZPC will have created financing arrangements that are acceptable to both the contractor and Exim Bank of India by December 31, 2021, clearing the door for contract signature. The project is expected to begin in the first half of 2022 when the financial drawdown is completed.
One of the major milestones in the repowering project, according to plant manager Engineer Tom Chuma, would be the completion of a pipeline from Khami Dam to provide water to the station’s boilers. This project is critical, according to experts, because the power plant requires extra water as one of its major fundamental components. The initiative is also projected to help in the recycling of Khami Dam sewer-contaminated water. In 1987, the Bulawayo Power Station became part of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa), which consolidated all local power companies.