Bulawayo power station
|Part of the |
Global Coal Plant Tracker,
a Global Energy Monitor project.
|Related coal trackers:|
Bulawayo power station is a permitted power station in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
Table 1: Project-level location details
|Plant name||Location||Coordinates (WGS 84)|
|Bulawayo power station||Bulawayo, Bulawayo, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe||-20.158611, 28.575278 (exact)|
The map below shows the exact location of the power station.
Unit-level coordinates (WGS 84):
- Unit 3, Unit 1, Unit 2: -20.158611, 28.575278
Table 2: Unit-level details
|Unit name||Status||Fuel(s)||Capacity (MW)||Technology||Start year||Retired year|
|Unit 3||permitted||coal - unknown||30||subcritical||2022||–|
|Unit 1||permitted||coal - unknown||30||subcritical||2022||–|
|Unit 2||permitted||coal - unknown||30||subcritical||2022||–|
Table 3: Unit-level ownership and operator details
|Unit 3||ZESA Holdings Ltd [100.0%]|
|Unit 1||ZESA Holdings Ltd [100.0%]|
|Unit 2||ZESA Holdings Ltd [100.0%]|
- Source of financing: US$110 million in debt from the Export-Import Bank of India and the Government of India (cancelled) 
The plant was commissioned between 1947 and 1957 as an undertaking by the Municipality of Bulawayo. It joined the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority in 1987. While Bulawayo initially had an installed capacity of 120 MW, it was refurbished in 1999 to 90 MW. The main materials the plant uses to generate electricity are coal, chemicals, oil, and greases. The station generates an average of 30 MW.
2016 Refurbishment Project
As of 2016, the plant was planned for another refurbishment at a cost of US$87 million. The plant was expected to be 90 MW when completed, and was expected to be completed in mid-2018. In March 2016, it was reported that construction was planned to begin by the end of 2016.
In April 2017, it was reported that work on the refurbishment would start soon after ZESA secured US$90 million from an unnamed Indian bank. A company said that a separate challenge for the plant was securing coal efficiently from Hwange Colliery due to logistical challenges.
After securing $110 million from India's Eximbank and the Government of India, Bulawayo Power Station repowering was stalled by contractual disputes between ZESA and Bulawayo City Council (BCC). The dispute was resolved in April 2019, with Zimbabwe Power Company receiving a license for the station after hearing objections from the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association and the Bulawayo City Council.
Despite these developments, IJGlobal reported in March 2019 that the government of Zimbabwe had cancelled plans for refurbishing Bulawayo power station, stating that the US$87 million loan from India's Eximbank had not been signed, and that the contract had been cancelled because the EPC contractor, Jaguar Overseas, had failed to secure sufficient funding for the project.
In June 2019, a federal committee toured the facility and found that the machines were ancient, unreliable, unserviceable, and with no spare parts available for the units. In addition, the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) was awaiting the conclusion of the tender process to kick start the upgrading and repowering, and confirmed that it had secured funding. One key development for the repowering project was the construction of a pipeline from Khami Dam to bring water for the station’s boilers.
In July 2019, two Indian companies pre-qualified for the tendering process for the repowering project. The general manager for plant refurbishments said "you will see that between April 2020 and March 2022, we should be in implementation.”
As of October 2019, preparation of tender documents for the project still appeared in progress. Between 2019 and December 2021, "Power Column" reports by ZPC did not provide any further updates about the project.
However, in May 2020, reporting suggested that ZPC still had a funding commitment secured. In addition, an April 2021 article noted that EximBank was assessing a tender bid submitted by an Indian contractor. The US$87m loan had a 13-year tenure, a grace period of three years, and a repayment period of 10 years at two percent interest rate per annum.
A May 2022 article included claims by ZPC that plans to reopen the plant were "on course". However, the company also noted that they were increasing their focus on renewable energy options, namely the Gairezi Hydro Power Plant and the Batoka Gorge Hydro Power Plant.
According to an article from September 2022, the power station may have been in operation with a generating capacity of 30 MW. In March 2023, however, it was reported that Bulawayo power station was not producing any electricity.
In May 2023, an official from the Ministry of Energy and Power Development reportedly stated that the government was considering decommissioning the Bulawayo power station as it was "beyond repair."
In August 2023, Zimbabwe President Mnangagwa stated that there were plans to rehabilitate the power station so that it could feed into the national grid. Rehabilitation of one of the power station's boilers was reportedly underway and expected to restore 20 MW of capacity when complete by the end of August. The plant's overall repowering project was apparently still on hold, however, pending the utility's decision on how to allocate funds.
In November 2023, Zimbabwe's Cabinet approved the country's "roadmap to electricity self-sufficiency", which would involve restructuring of ZESA and "decommissioning and re-purposing of small thermal power stations," including Bulawayo power station and Harare power station. The power stations had reportedly not been generating any electricity for at least a week.
In September 2022, a legal ownership battle between ZPC and the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) was ongoing. The BCC claimed that they had legal authority over the power station and demanded US$60 million should they release their right for the facility. ZPC maintained that based on the Electricity Act Chapter 13:19, all power stations in Zimbabwe shall belong to Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) Holdings.
In March 2023, it was reported that the BCC was conducting public consultations to get opinions from residents on how to proceed in negotiations with ZPC. Residents apparently expressed they wanted the BCC to evaluate the power station’s lifespan and capacity before deciding on retaining the plant or transferring it to ZPC.
An April 2023 article reported that the BCC wanted to retain ownership of the power station and were looking for investment partners to revive the plant. 
Iconic cooling towers
The power station's cooling towers helped give the city of Bulawayo one of its nicknames: Kontuthu Ziyathunqa, a Ndebele phrase for "smoke arising" (aka "The Place with Smoke that Bellows").
In a June 2019 press release, Zimbabwe Power Company provided additional details about the repowering project and addressed controversy surrounding cooling tower upgrades: "It has come to our attention that there is an outcry by the Bulawayo community over the planned demolition of two cooling towers at Bulawayo Power Station (BPS). (...) While ZPC appreciates the sentimental attachment towards the iconic towers by Bulawayo residents, demolition eliminates and ameliorates the aforementioned hazards thereby ensuring continued electricity generation in a safe environment, and full restoration of the 'Kontuthu Ziyathunqa' identity through refurbishment of cooling towers 3, 4, 5 and 6 which is to be done in support of the repowering project." In July 2019, reporting highlighted that certain aspects of the repowering project continued to be contested.
Articles and Resources
- Bulawayo Thermal Power Plant (90MW) Rehabilitation, IJGlobal, Updated Apr. 10, 2019
- "Zimbabwe: Refurbishment of Bulawayo Power Station Deferred," All Africa, March 3, 2016
- "Bulawayo Power Station," Zimbabwe Power Company, accessed September 2016
- "Bulawayo Thermal Power Station refurbishment to be completed in 2018," Sunday News Online, June 5, 2016
- Robin Muchetu, "Byo Power Station refurbishment to start," Sunday News, April 30, 2017
- "Achieving self-sufficiency in electricity generation in Zimbabwe," Bulawayo 24 News, accessed June 2019
- "ZPC gets licence for Bulawayo Power Station," Chronicle, June 17, 2019
- "Zimbabwe cancels Bulawayo rehab contract," IJGlobal, March 27, 2019 (requires subscription)
- "Zimbabwe: Parly Committee Condemns Zim's Run-Down Thermal Power Stations," All Africa, June 2019
- "ZPC awaits tender process to start work on Bulawayo Power Station," Chronicle, June 6, 2019
- "Pre-qualification of prospective bidders for Bulawayo station project complete," Chronicle, July 9, 2019
- "Zimbabwe to re-power Bulawayo thermal power station," Construction Review Online, July 4, 2019
- "Power Column 3rd Quarter", ZPC, October 2019
- "General," ZPC, accessed December 2021
- "ZESA cancels power plant projects", Power Transformer News, May 26, 2020
- "Indian financier unlocks US$310m loan for Hwange," Business Times, April 29, 2021
- "Coal crisis pegs back power generation," New Zimbabwe, May 15, 2022
- "Zim Surpasses Power Quarterly Target," The Sunday News, May 10, 2022
- "BCC Demands US$60 million for Power Station," The Sunday News, September 25, 2022
- "Three Power Stations Face Decommissioning," Pindula, March 26, 2023
- "Bulawayo Power Station faces decommissioning," Business Times, May 4, 2023
- "Government steps up Bulawayo revival efforts," Chronicle, August 3, 2023
- "Resuscitation of Byo station Boiler 6 to improve power supply," Chronicle, August 10, 2023
- "Cabinet adopts electricity self-sufficiency roadmap," The Herald, November 8, 2023
- "This African Nation Aspires to Energy Self-Sufficiency," Sputnik News, November 8, 2023
- "Impasse over Bulawayo Power Station continues," The Sunday News, March 5, 2023
- "Residents speak on Byo Power Station takeover bid," CITE, March 8, 2023
- "Council wants to retain ‘idle’ Bulawayo Power Station built in 1947," Nehanda Radio, April 18, 2023
- "ZESA insists Bulawayo cooling towers NOT being demolished after outcry," Zim Live, June 19, 2019
- "Demolition of Bulawayo Power Station Cooling Towers," ZPC, June 20, 2019
- "BCC, ZPC standoff looms over power station demolition," The Chronicle, July 6, 2019
To access additional data, including an interactive map of coal-fired power stations, a downloadable dataset, and summary data, please visit the Global Coal Plant Tracker on the Global Energy Monitor website.