The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) has granted Zimbabwe Power Company licence for its $140 million Gwanda solar plant project, which will have capacity to produce 100 megawatts, paving the way for the start of plant construction works. This comes as it emerged the Ministry of Energy and Power Development had endorsed the consent by the State Procurement Board for the reduction of the cost of the Gwanda project from $170 million to $140 million, which will impact on the cost of the plant's power. Shanghai Stock Exchange-listed electrical engineers, CHiNT Electric Co, was contracted by Zimbabwe Power Company to build the 100 megawatt solar plant and recently confirmed feasibility of building the power plant at the reduced price of $140 million.
While the project has been dogged by reports of alleged funding challenges, actual construction works for the much awaited solar project would still not commence if ZERA had not issued the licence. With the licence now issued, pre-commencement works will start. Zimbabwe Power Company acting chief executive Josh Chirikutsi confirmed that ZERA had issued the licence for Gwanda solar, but directed further questions to Secretary for Energy and Power Development Patison Mbiriri, who did not answer his mobile.
"Yes, we have received the licence (for Gwanda) and as you know it is one of the projects we are pursuing under the Rapid Results Initiative (RRI), but you can talk to the permanent secretary for more details, he is the one leading the process under RRI," he said.
ZERA chief executive Gloria Magombo, though seemingly non-committal, appeared to confirm when saying the authority was not at liberty to comment on issuance of licences in final the phase of evaluation. She intimated that the regulator was in the final phase of the process, but added that if ZPC already had the licence, it was obligated to proceed to publish in a national newspaper as per the law.
"Whoever told you that they now have the licence must show you the copy of the licence and also proceed to publish it in a national newspaper, as that is the requirement of the law," Engineer Magombo said.
This also serves to disprove reports that Government had resolved to cancel the tender for the solar plant, which was awarded to Intratrek Zimbabwe in 2014, over alleged lack of progress of the project. In further affirmation of its support for the project, Government, through the ministry, recently wrote to ZPC managing director Noah Gwariro giving its support to the approval granted by SPB for the reduction of the Gwanda solar project price, which has been made possible to technological developments in the construction of solar powered plants.
"According to the project appraisal done by the International Renewable Energy Agency on the Gwanda solar, among others, the capex per megawatt installed would be $1,5 million, translating to a capex of $150 million for the 100MW Gwanda plant if mono-crystalline silicon PV panels are used," Mr Mbiriri said in the letter to Eng Gwariro.
The plant will supply power at the nationally approved renewable energy tariff of 12,1 cents per kilowatt hour, as opposed to the 18 cents per kWh, which was initially agreed on when the contract was signed.