As the demand for Africa’s mineral commodities increases so the need for reliable and cost effective electricity escalates. Commerce and communities soon follow – all with a growing need for electricity.

The Hwange Power Station is the major coal fired station in Zimbabwe providing the country’s electricity. However the national electricity requirement is about 2,200 megawatts, but the country is only able to generate 1,200 megawatts. Is this an opportunity for energy sector investors to take advantage of the country’s huge coal deposits and venture into thermal energy production?

Will the extensive coalfields in the Zambezi and Save-Limpopo valleys remain undeveloped thanks to offshore natural gas reserves, asks John Holloway, a Zimbabwean coal fields consultant in his presentation at the Fossil Fuel Foundation’s Zimbabwe Energy conference.

This conference, to be hosted on Friday 11 April at the Wanderers Club in Illovo, will highlight the significant resources of Zimbabwe’s coalbed methane (CBM), Mozambique’s newly discovered gas fields and the growing need for reliable electricity.

Natural gas and coal deposits have been discovered on both sides of the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border, reports Zimbabwe’s Deputy Mines Minister, Gift Chimanikire.

Well known Bulawayo legislator Eddie Cross explains. “A gas field was discovered just off Beira, about 10 km from Beira port on the other side of the river. This gas field has 4 trillion cubic feet of gas which is bigger than the fields in the south supplying Gauteng. I am reliably informed that using this gas, which is only 183 km from Mutare, we can construct a 2 000 MW power station in Mutare within three years.

We cannot expect any substantial new investment in Zimbabwe until we are able to guarantee those investors power. Therefore, this issue is of critical importance to us as a nation,” he warns.

Coalbed methane (CBM) has become an important source of energy in the United States, Canada, China and Australia. Zimbabwe has measured CBM resources that exceed the total measured resources in the rest of the Southern African Development Community. It is estimated that the Hwange/Lupane basins have over 800 million cubic metres of CBM per square kilometer. This is equivalent to about 765 billion cubic metres of sulphur free CBM. Zimbabwe is believed to hold the largest known reserve of CBM in sub Saharan Africa.

Meanwhile China is flexing coal-fuelled muscles in the wings. It expects to create 4,200 jobs when its coal mine and 300 megawatt power station in Gwayi, Matabeleland North is commissioned in 2016.  Another 300MW plant is set to be completed in mid-2017.

Is it possible that Zimbabwe could help resolve South Africa’s energy problems?

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