KARIBA, Zimbabwe, June 15 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe, which endured power cuts almost daily last year, is on track to start generating additional power supplies at its Kariba hydro plant in December 2017, a senior government official said on Wednesday.
Construction of two new generating units at the country’s biggest power plant to add 300 megawatts of capacity is halfway complete and the first 150 MW unit is expected to produce electricity in December 2017, Partson Mbiriri, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Power and Energy, said.
China’s Sinohydro is expanding Kariba power station at a cost of $533 million.
“Work on Kariba south expansion is 48 percent complete. We are on course to meet the 24 December 2017 deadline for the first unit,” Mbiriri told reporters in Kariba town.
Power cuts in Zimbabwe last year often lasted 18 hours a day after output at Kariba slumped due to low dam water levels.
Kariba is only producing 285 MW out of its capacity of 750 MW but the country has increased power supplies this year by importing from South Africa and Mozambique.
Peak power demand in Zimbabwe has fallen over the last decade to 1,600 MW from 2,200 MW, Mbiriri said. Zimbabwe’s economy contracted by nearly half during a 1999-2008 recession, causing a decline in manufacturing and commercial agriculture production, sectors that are among the largest consumers of electricity.
Mbiriri said Chinese-backed China Africa Sunlight Energy was expected to begin work later this year on its 600 MW coal-fired electricity plant in Gwayi, western Zimbabwe, after holding talks on financing the project in China last week.
Zimbabwe has in the last four years signed agreements with mostly Chinese contractors to build solar and coal power stations that would produce at least 2000 MW but the deals have been hampered by a lack of financing. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Susan Fenton)
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