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Zimbabwe’s Centragrid to scale up solar output

NYABIRA, ZIMBABWE (Reuters) – Zimbabwean solar power company Centragrid plans to increase generation capacity to 25 megawatts (MW) by October 2021, helping the country chip away at a huge electricity deficit that has hurt mines and kept households in the dark for hours.

The southern African country currently produces about 1,000 MW of electricity, half of peak demand, resulting in rolling power cuts after a devastating drought reduced dam levels at its hydropower plant while ageing thermal stations break down regularly.

“If we fail to solve these things, we will continue to import power from neighbouring countries. When you import power, you’re also exporting jobs,” Centragrid founder Victor Utedzi told Reuters on a solar farm in Nyabira, 35km west of the capital, Harare.

Centragrid’s Nyabira solar plant was built by China’s Sinohydro [SINOH.UL] and generates 2.5 MW but it plans to build nine more units of 2.5 MW each, with work due to start in the next three months.

Centragrid says it will spend $30 million, raised locally and offshore, to scale its plant to 25 MW, but Utedzi is concerned that Zimbabwe’s foreign currency shortages could dampen interest in the sector.

Zimbabwe’s foreign currency shortages after years of economic crisis have left businesses struggling to import equipment, service foreign loans and pay dividends to international investors.

(Reporting by Nelson Banya; Editing by Tanisha Heiberg and David Goodman)

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