Zimbabwe, China launch new power units

Kariba - Energy-starved Zimbabwe on Thursday launched a $533m project with China to scale up electricity generation at one of its major power plants in a bid to ease perennial energy woes.

China's Sino Hydro will build two additional units at the Kariba Power Station, 365km north of the capital, expected to add 300MW to the national grid on completion in 2017.

The Chinese government is providing $320m towards the expansion deal while state-owned Zimbabwe Power Company will chip in $213m coming from loans sourced from development institutions.

The launch of the expansion project came days after President Robert Mugabe returned from a state visit to China where he signed various agreements whose details are yet to be released.

Speaking at the commissioning ceremony, Mugabe said the expansion of the power station would lower the cost of electricity by reducing dependence on imports.

"Such a development would provide the nation with additional and cheaper electricity for both industry and commerce, and as a result, attract investment to Zimbabwe," Mugabe said.

Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire said the extension would "mark an end to load-shedding".

Frequent breakdowns of Zimbabwe's ageing power stations means the country suffers perennial power-shortages.

The state power company resorts to load-shedding, switching off supplies to specific areas for up to eight hours, to save scarce power.

The country produces an average of 1 200MW against a peak demand of 2 200 MW and relies on imports to supplement its production.