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Investment welcome as Zimbabwe looks to achieve 10 000MW target by 2040

Interview - October 24, 2012
Zimbabwe is looking to expand its energy sector and is welcoming investors from around the world to help them achive their targets

The economy has been growing at a rate of 9.3%, despite a slight decline because of the global economic downturn. In your opinion, what are the main contributing factors to this increase in economic growth, after decades of stagnation?

Zimbabwe’s economy has declined since as late as 2009, but a number of improvements have been made which concern the socioeconomic situation. This stabilized after the GNU was signed in 2008. We have also got dedicated people, who are highly educated by African standards, and they work hard. These people have set a goal to improve the economy, together as a nation. We have seen a great improvement in the energy business, and we have revived a number of our power plants. We are now able to run all six units. We have also been able to develop smaller power stations. The energy we are now generating is a positive development in other areas of the economy, such as mining. This has contributed to a lot to the growth of the economy. We have seen the tobacco industry in the agricultural sector picking up tremendously. The rest of the other departments in the agricultural sector are also improving gradually.

What would you like people to think about Zimbabwe after they read this report?

That Zimbabwe is a peaceful country where people are working hard to recover the economy and prepare for the future. People are doing this by educating their people and developing the economy and their minds. We are also looking at reviving our manufacturing sector in a big way, which is quite diverse. There are opportunities for everyone.

The Government has recently rolled out a very ambitious plan in our opinion to achieve a $100 billion economy by 2040. In order to support that growth, there is a plan to develop the energy sector to the capacity of 10,000 MW. How do your operations fit into that plan, and what are your organization’s plans in line with the bigger picture?

Our strategy is two-pronged. We want to secure the existing assets to make sure that they are optimized and secure, meaning that they should generate close to their maximum capacity, and do this reliably. We are also looking at expanding to grow the business. Currently, our installed capacity in terms of power stations is 1960 MW, comprising a 750 MW hydro station and a 820 MW thermal plant. Kariba is able to perform at maximum capacity, although one is only at 50% capacity. We then have small thermal plants that were built a long time ago (in the 1940s or 1960s). We want to inject new life into them by using technologies so they can be used for another 15 to 20 years. We want to extend Kariba by another 300 MW, and we are currently at a stage where we are evaluating bids for Kariba. We want to build a hydro power station in the east of the country, and we are also working on thermal power plants. We already have an old thermal site, and we want to develop a new solar plant without storage initially. We want to work with the private sector to come up with a 100 MW solar plant in the south of the country.

Zimbabwe is endowed with coal bed methane 7:22 resources in the southwestern part of the country, and we are currently running a tender to gauge the interest and also appoint a contractor who can do detailed feasibility and exploration studies for the coal bed methane. We plan to build a 300 MW power station, and besides that, there will also be opportunities for Gas-to-Liquid fertilizer projects, and we hope to do these in conjunction with the private sector, since we are not involved in the fertilizer business as such.

In the long-term, we want to work with the Zambezi River Authority to build a dam on the Zambezi. These will have a capacity of 1,600 MW between the two countries. Within Zimbabwe itself, we also want to look at hydro in the southeastern part of the country. We are looking at 100MW from that. We have also got longer term future projects, where we can develop a large power station. So there will be more and more renewable and hydro projects which we think will be in line with global trends. We want to have as less pollution as possible.

How important is it to jumpstart the era of renewable energy in Zimbabwe?

We intend to get renewable energy off the ground, in line with global trends. We want to have the lowest carbon footprint as we can. We do have one of the highest levels of solar potential in the world. The southern part of the country is earmarked for that. We have already identified some of the areas where we can do the solar plants. Initially, we do not see ourselves putting up storage capacities, but we want to start off with generating from photovoltaic units (PVs).

How does Zimbabwe benefit from the Power Pool and vice versa? How is that going to change in the future, in line with the 10,000 MW plan?

Zimbabwe is in a strategic position in the southern African Power Pool, which incidentally is also headquartered in Zimbabwe. It includes most of the SADC members. These are already collected on their grids, and there are going to be more connections. Zimbabwe will benefit from this, and it is already benefiting from the arrangement, because it means that we can now import power and when we reach a situation where there is an excess, we will be able to export power. We are currently importing power from Mozambique. We are able to import power from DRC and ZESCO in Zambia. We are currently exporting power to NAMPOWER 12:52 through Botswana. So we are well-connected in terms of the electricity grid. We are going to further develop our capability to transmit power to the rest of the SADC member countries.

There is a project which is between Zimbabwe and Namibia. These transmissions projects are very important to ZPC in the sense that our power stations need to evacuate power to export and distribute power within the country. They can use the same transmissions lines, and this is very good for our projects.

You work and you will be working with many more IPPs. A lot more licenses have been given by the ministry recently. What have been your experiences so far when it comes to working with the private sector? Could you comment on the general dialogue and the flexibility of the Government when it comes to working with the private sector?

We have had a number of meetings with the private sector, where they want to come in and develop plants. ZPC is a first mover in this business, so most of them would want to do joint ventures with ZPC in order to develop their projects, and we are very happy to do that. We have MOUs that we are about to sign with the private sector, and companies that want to get involved in those developments, in conjunction with ZPC. We have had discussions and we have the potential to do large projects. We are also familiar with the private sector’s projects in the core business, where we want to be part of generation projects such as … 15:38. We are already part of the previous arrangements with the national power … 15:45. Any new investors in those areas would find us very useful when it comes to either operating their plants or developing those projects jointly.

What is ZPC doing in its own capacity to instill investor confidence?

Yes. ZPC has recently developed a project brochure, which highlights relevant information regarding projects. We also took part in an investment seminar earlier this month in China, and we have met with local industry. We have also taken part in other people’s meetings where we highlight our projects and welcome those who would like to invest in our projects so we can manage the energy crisis and reduce our deficit.

A lot of leadership skills are required in your position. What do you think makes a good leader? Who would be your inspiration?

Communication is very important, and we are working on leadership training to make sure that our vision is well-understood. We also have to make sure that we understand that our stakeholders are aware of our business. We are working to ensure that we communicate effectively in order to achieve the company’s vision, and share that with employees and stakeholders. We get a lot of guidance from our ministry, and they are very open. Our minister is available most of the time, and we are inspired by that. We also hope to instill the same culture, where our subordinates and core workers are able to interact with us.

What would your final message be to the readers of USA Today?

The readers should know that Zimbabwe is open for investment, especially in the energy sector. We would welcome them to come and invest in Zimbabwe, and work with ZPC.