The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) has signed a power purchasing agreement with South African independent power producer, Matshela Energy Limited, which will pave way for the construction of a 100 megawatt solar plant in the southern town of Gwanda.

State-media in Zimbabwe has touted the development as one of the biggest renewable solar projects in the neighbouring country and in the southern Africa region.

Former Eskom interim chief executive Matshela Koko, the managing director of the independent power producer, said he was delighted with the conclusion of the agreement as Zimbabwe incorporated solar energy to boost insufficient electricity supply and reduce carbon footprint.

“Matshela Energy is pleased to announce that the power purchase agreement between the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company and Matshela Energy (PTY) Limited for the 100 MW solar PV power plant has been concluded,” said Koko.

In terms of the agreement, Matshela Energy is licensed in terms of Section 42 of the Electricity Act to construct, own, operate, and maintain the 100 megawatt solar power station and associated battery storage facility with a capacity of 40 megawatt/hour at Gwanda Timber Farm in Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland South province.

Koko said the deal was a “landmark achievement” by Matshela Energy, the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera), ZETDC, and Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Energy and Power Development.

“With the power purchase agreement signed, we are working towards financial close under ZERA’s stipulated timelines. According to the signed power purchase agreement, the Government Support Agreement must be concluded within the next 180 days from the signing date,” Koko said.

“A Government Support Agreement is an agreement between the government of Zimbabwe acting through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the independent power producer (IPP) that set out terms on which the government of Zimbabwe provides incentives and assistance to the IPP. We are confident that the Government Support agreement will be concluded within the stipulated period.”

Koko vowed the project would not falter.

“The 100MW solar PV (photovoltaic) and 40MWh storage project signifies a change within the southern African energy landscape, and it will be one of the largest renewable energy and storage facilities in Zimbabwe and the region. We have come a long way since we started with this project in 2018,” said Koko.

“We shall not falter. The people of Gwanda have been good to us, and we owe it to them to succeed.”

In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa has confirmed negotiations for Eskom to import surplus electricity from Botswana had begun as the energy crisis worsens in Africa’s economic powerhouse.

This comes after Ramaphosa announced last week Eskom would import power from neighbouring countries through the Southern African Power Pool arrangement as one of the measures to plug the 6000MW electricity shortage on the grid over the next three months.