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Zimbabwe powerless as China pulls plug on coal

Zimbabwe powerless as China pulls plug on coal

from DANIEL JONES in Victoria Falls
VICTORIA FALLS, (CAJ News) CHINA’S decision to stop financing coal-fired power projects has left Zimbabwe’s power projects hanging in the balance.

This could exacerbate an already dire energy crisis in the Southern African country.

The Chinese government recently announced it would stop funding coal projects in other countries, a decision premised on a global need to fight climate change through reducing greenhouse emissions, clean up air pollution and reduce soil and water pollution.

China is funding the US$1,5 billion construction of Hwange Power Station expansion, which is about 72 percent towards completion.

The Asian country was also earmarked to finance rehabilitation of three other thermal power stations- Bulawayo, Harare and Munyati – whose equipment is now obsolete and needs upgrading.

Hwange Power Station is suffering constant breakdowns as the plant which was commissioned in 1983 using the 1970s technology, is now too old according to engineers.

A Chinese company is also constructing a 50MW plant in Hwange, with target of ultimately feed 700MW to the national grid by 2025.

Zimbabwe currently produces about 1 400MW of electricity from its four thermal power stations and Kariba Hydro station against a demand of close to 2 000MW during off peak.

The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) Holdings is concerned about the country’s thermal power production.

“The recent developments in coal are a concern,” Sydney Gata, ZESA board chairman, said.

“It’s a sad story for Southern Africa. We were going to benefit from these projects if finance was still available.”

The bulk of electricity from most African countries comes from coal.

Engineer Menard Makota, from one of the coal mines in Hwange, feels China and other countries should have come up with clear-cut affordable alternatives before announcing the ban on coal energy production.

“The problem is that they are discouraging thermal power production but not giving alternatives,” Makota said.

“Instead of saying leave thermal should say invest in what reduces emissions. They should focus on reducing (carbon) emissions. There are ways to reduce emissions.”

Zimbabwe is considering pursuing alternative renewable energy sources through capacitating independent power producers.

Prices of coal have reportedly gone up as producers in some parts of the world stop producing while some western countries are also reportedly experiencing electricity shortages.

Zimbabwe has an estimated 2 billion tonnes of coal deposits mostly in Hwange in Matabeleland North and Gokwe in Midlands.

– CAJ News

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