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Zim’s energy firm partners with SA investors to develop US$400 mln solar power plants

Almot Maqolo

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s Guarantee Risk Solar Energy in partnership with their South Africa investor’s eXess Africa and Bushveld Energy says it will spend at least US$400 million on the construction of 3 solar power plants in the country. The deal received formal approval to go ahead with the projects.

In total the company is planning to have 250MW solar power projects and will be done phases. Of the projects, the company will partner the 2 southern African country’s largest city councils, Harare and Bulawayo to develop a 50MW and 100MW plant respectively. The last 100MW project will be situated in Goromonzi and will be independent.

Guarantee Risk Solar Energy chief executive officer Jonathan Katsidzira said the company was working on the remaining nit gritty – the compliance issues, but the overall approval has been granted by the Ministry of Energy and Power Development. However, pressed further, Katsidzira told this publication that once given the go ahead they could bring on board financial partners.

“We are still going to work on those, remember because we said it’s not necessarily the finances which come first, it’s the regulatory framework to make sure that we have satisfied the compliant requirements, that’s what we are trying to push for now.  Once we have got all that then we are going to start looking at the finances. We have started initially on what we call the development funding so that we will be able to pay for these licenses, that’s what we have started on,” he said.

One of its partners, eXess Africa is currently busy working on a 20MW in Ruseke and a 5MW in Hwange. Also, in the SADC region the firm have been involved with 75MW project in South Africa. Guarantee Risk Solar Energy together with its partners will start with the smaller project and then move on to do larger projects.

“We are going to be looking at 4 to 6 months from now because what happens is before we actually go on site, there is a lot of work that we have to do especially in terms of compliance and we have to apply for the licenses and there is a lot of work. So we are in the process of doing that background work,” said Katsidzira.

Going forward, eXess Africa chief executive officer George Beukes said the solar photovoltaic plants would save the country from losing the much needed foreign currency as it will become a net exporter of electricity into the region.

“There is 2 sides of income generation which one can look at, there is short to medium term, which is the investment into the country, most of these investment is proportion of local investment but the majority of the investment is from abroad so this brings forex investment into the country,” he said.

In terms of job creation, because these projects is typically the construction side about 60-100% will be local employment and benefitting the surrounding communities.

“But in terms of the long term it’s got sustainable job creation for the power plants but it also reduces the country’s need of importing energy that alleviates the need for foreign currency payment outside, which also aides the economy and hopefully in the future the country will go into a position of net exporter of electricity to generate the much needed foreign currency.”

EXess Africa is an experienced engineering and project management firm providing professional multi-disciplinary engineering, contract, construction and project management services, including Solar PV Power construction, installation and operation and maintenance services to international organisations in various industry sectors. Guarantee Risk Solar Energy invests in innovative solar power battery storage technology which smoothens electricity suppliers to the national grid between day and night as well as between peak and low periods.

The government is working with the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) to reduce barriers which independent power producers (IPP) were facing, including their licensing. In the last 5 years, the southern African nation’s energy regulator has licensed more than 30 IPPs, however, 8 of them have taken off and are currently operational.

Zimbabwe liberalized its energy sector in a bid to promote participation of private capital. According to BMI an international think tank, Zimbabwe is expected to continue relying on electricity imports for the coming eight years due to lack of investment in the energy sector. Zimbabwe requires 2,400 megawatts (MW) per day to meet national demand, while the nation only produces an average of 1 200MW with balance coming from neighboring states.

Most countries across the globe are pushing for the use of renewable energy so as to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.

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