The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) has published a general procurement notice for the development of solar PV plants at multiple locations with combined capacity of 500MW. Zimbabwe has been planning a major renewable power procurement for some time as the country looks to improve its extremely challenging foreign exchange situation by reducing reliance on imported electricity and fuels. Solar PV plants will also help the country manage its hydropower resources, which have suffered severely from drought.
Speaking at the Powering Africa Summit in Miami on 24-26 February, Ministry of Energy and Power Development permanent secretary Gloria Sibusisiwe Magombo said that “As a country we are currently going through a serious energy supply challenge. Our demand is around 1.7GW with installed capacity of about 2.8GW, but we have only been producing about 700MW domestically. This represents a huge opportunity for renewables and we have seen a huge uptick in the mining sector with solar power. There is also a lot of potential for rooftops with net metering.”
ZETDC introduced a net metering scheme for solar power systems earlier this month. The scheme offers discounts on electricity bills in return for surplus power being supplied to the grid. In its statement launching the scheme, ZETDC said “net metering is beneficial to the utility and the nation at large through the saving of foreign currency as there will be less power imports”.
She said that the country has enough solar resources to generate 4GW of power. Zimbabwe has been looking at the South African model and is in the process of developing an integrated resource plan to guide procurement. The country has also been working with South African and other international partners to put in place a competitive procurement framework for solar power.
“We believe that solar will help us better manage our hydropower resources by reducing demand for hydropower during the day. We are looking at mini-hydropower and have done a geospatial analysis for off-grid systems. We are also looking for partners to help with solar water heating and energy efficiency”, she said.
Solar PV projects procured under the 500MW scheme will be developed as independent power producers at sites and capacities determined by ZETDC. The developers will also finance grid connection. The programme will include social upliftment projects for vulnerable groups and training and capacity building to help the development of the domestic renewable energy industry.
The programme is likely to face significant challenges. Foreign exchange constraints have been a major problem for developers already in the country. One investor with experience developing projects successfully in frontier markets told African Energy at the Powering Africa Summit that Zimbabwe should first gain more experience with international IPPs on an unsolicited basis.
There are currently three utility-scale solar PV plants in Zimbabwe, according to African Energy Live Data: the 25MW Centragrid Nyabira project being developed by Zimbabwe’s African Transmission Corporation, the 20MW Harava project being developed by Botswana’s Irgolo Ltd through Invest Solar Africa, and the 5MW Cross Mabale project developed by Zimbabwe’s Solgas Energy. However, the country has limited experience with the complex project financing structures and processes required for large-scale competitive procurement.
Bidding documents are expected to be available from next month. Contact: Procurement manager, ZETDC, Head Office Procurement Section, 2nd Floor, South Wing, Electricity Centre, 25 Samora Machel Avenue, Harare, Zimbabwe. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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