Zimbabwe is inviting bidders to tender for the installation of 500MW of solar power plants as the country aims to shift to renewable energy.
The country’s power utility, Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution Company (ZETDC), advised in an official notice that it intends contracting the 500MW of solar PV from varying capacities to be commissioned at identified strategic locations across the county.
Bidding documents are available from June 2020.
The shift to renewable energy sources is in a bid to ease power cuts, which in some instances can last up to 18 hours a day. Low water levels at the Kariba hydropower plant and constant breakdowns at the Hwange thermal station have cut output.
Zimbabwe is currently producing 987MW of electricity daily. Hwange is producing 381MW and approximately 600MW is generated at the Kariba complex, which has a capacity of 1,050MW.
The power cuts have only eased recently after much of the economy shut down due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
The solar power would reduce loadshedding during the day time by “deploying properly sized solar plants at identified priority load centres,” ZETDC advised.
Solar would also reduce investment in connecting plants to the grid and associated lead times, mitigate against climate change risks on hydro and thermal power plants, and cut power imports, the company said.
Policy changes to attract investment
In March, Zimbabwe launched the National Renewable Energy Policy and the Biofuels Policy of Zimbabwe, hoping to attract investment.
The policy grants all renewable energy projects National Project Status. They have tax holidays of 5% for the initial five years and 15% thereafter. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirements for projects of 5MW and less have been relaxed.
Licensing timelines for solar projects is currently six months, which has frustrated many investors. The new policy aims to reduce this, but gives no specific indications on the shortened licensing period.
Zimbabwe has recently published regulations allowing for net metering, where solar power users can feed excess energy back into the grid.