Friday, 17 December 2021

GWANDA SOLAR PROJECT STILL IN LIMBO


 THE long-awaited 100MW Gwanda Solar Project remains in limbo in the wake of the continuing legal battle between the contractor, Intratrek Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC).

The project has courted controversy over the last few years after Intratrek Zimbabwe owned by Harare businessman Mr Wicknel Chivhayo, failed to deliver within the agreed timelines citing failure by the power utility to fulfil certain obligations.

Last year, Cabinet approved the revised implementation plan for the project that commits to deliver the first 10MW and 90MW by year 2022 after signing of financial closure agreements and fulfilment of all outstanding conditions.

Despite this proposed working plan to fast-track the implementation of the project, further action is dependent on pending court outcome, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, Dr Gloria Magombo, said.

“Gwanda Solar project is on a standstill. The project effectively did not progress into actual power plant units’ installation as the employer (ZPC) terminated the EPC contract on basis of failure to timeously complete pre-commencement works,” said Dr Magombo in a recent interview.

“The project is faced with legal challenges as the contractor is challenging the employer’s termination of the contract. Further action on the project awaits outcome of the court processes.

“At the moment all I can say is that Zesa management is studying the latest court decision with regards to some of the issues, which were related to abuse of funds related to the project.

“So, we’ve left that to management to then advise the Government in terms of how to proceed.”

Following last year’s Cabinet approval of the new implementation plan, the Gwanda project will have to be tied to a new contract, involvement of renowned power project experts and a US$14 million “ready-made” loan funding commitment for delivery of the first 10MW under the new phased project plan.

Under this framework Intratrek had been asked to declare its financial capacity before embarking on the project, which will be done in two phases.

Justice Tawanda Chitapi while ruling on a contractual dispute between Zesa and Intratrek over delays in implementing the project, has pointed out that electricity was not generated in courts and boardrooms, but at power stations and urged the feuding parties to dialogue and stop being “dilatory” in their approach.

Dr Magombo said it was unfortunate that the Gwanda solar project has been controversial from the beginning as it was not managed properly from a management point of view.

She, however, said the Government was not sitting back because of failure of one project, which was not managed well.

She said within Gwanda there was another 5MW solar project, which is already being implemented and is expected to feed power to the national grid next year.

Dr Magombo said a transmission line from the new project was already being installed while a similar project was being undertaken near Victoria Falls International Airport.

Recently, another 5MW solar project was commissioned at Cross Mabale near Hwange and is already supplying power to the national grid.

Energy and Power Development Minister, Zhemu Soda, is on record saying despite the false starts, the Gwanda Solar Project was one of his priority projects.

“Government is pushing for the implementation of the project hence Cabinet has directed Intratek and Zesa Holdings to engage and bring the project back on track,” he said.

Zimbabwe requires about 2 200MW a day during peak demand, especially in winter, but is generating about 1 300MW with deficit being covered by imports. Chronicle

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