The Zimbabwe Electric Supply Authority (ZESA) is planning a USD1.3 billion expansion of the country’s three major power plants and is currently looking for international investors to back the projects, which will increase the country’s generating capacity by 900 MW.

The expansion of the Hwange power station will add 600 MW to the grid, while two additional generating units at the Kariba plant will add another 300 MW each. The works design is being carried out by Hatch Africa Energy, a unit of hatch of Canada.

The country’s power stations were built in the 1950s and designed for a smaller population, with little capacity added since independence in 1980, forcing ZESA to ration supplies to both commercial and domestic users. Internal generating capacity is said to be 1200MW, trying to meet a national demand of 2200 MW. Efforts to plug the breach with imports have been undermined by the lack of funds, with ZESA said to owe regional suppliers millions of dollars.

The power supply problems are among the key challenges said to be holding back the country’s economic recovery. In particular its mining industy has been hard hit. Some mines have been forced to invest in expensive alternatives such as generators while others have offered to pay ZESA higher tariffs in return for guaranteed supplies in a bid to ensure production is not compromised further.