FORMER Finance minister Tendai Biti has dismissed Energy minister Soda Zhemu’s claims that he will import 500 megawatts (MW) from the region to alleviate power shortages, saying the region is also reeling from supply deficits.
Zhemu told Parliament this week that government plans to import 500MW from its neighbours to contain prolonged power outages.
He also said Zimbabwe plans to improve power supply by increasing imports from Mozambique and the region to 500 megawatts (MW). He further said power generation was continuing at Kariba Hydro-Power Station because Zambia had allowed the country to use its allocation of water.
Zhemu made promises while delivering a ministerial statement on the energy situation in Zimbabwe.
“We intend to increase by an additional 500MW which we are targeting to get from Mozambique and from the Southern African Power Pool. Discussions are currently underway for an additional capacity of 150MW from Mozambique, particularly from EDM power utility. We will also get another 50MW from the participation of Zesa at the Southern African Power Pool electricity market to give us an additional 200MW over and above the 300MW which we are currently importing,” said Zhemu.
Zimbabwe has been struggling to meet demand due to reduced production of electricity at Kariba Dam due to a decline in the water level in recent months.
The Zambezi River Authority has advised the Zimbabwe Power Company to halt production but, Zimbabwe has negotiated for reduced production. Zhemu told Parliament that stopping operations would have cut off 70% of the country’s electricity supply.
“The shutdown of the power plant would have had the following impacts: about 70% of the country’s power supply would have been lost as a result of shutting down the power station. The network stabilisation would also have been disturbed which ordinarily would be done through Kariba Power Station,” he said.
Zimbabwe now generates power from Zambia’s allocation at Kariba North Hydro-electric Power Station.
“The ministry engaged its counterparts in Zambia through meetings which were held at board level and also there was a recommendation from the board to allow the two utilities to engage. It was through those engagements that the council of ministers had an extraordinary meeting to allow ZPC to continue generating from Kariba Power Station but this time at a reduced capacity of between 250 to 300 megawatts. This effectively resulted in loss of about 300 megawatts capacity on our grid, increasing our power deficit to over 500 megawatts,” said Zhemu.
“As we speak, to be very honest, we are actually using their (Zambia) allocation of water to generate the 300MW that we are obtaining from Kariba Power Station.” However Biti dismissed Zhemu’s submission, saying the whole region is grappling with an energy crisis.
“We had the minister of Energy yesterday, the esteemed honourable Zhemu Soda. We have a crisis, Mr Speaker. If you listen to him carefully, his only answer is ‘I hope to import more’. He is hoping to import 500 megawatts from EDM in Mozambique and from the Sadc power pool, but there is a deficit in the entire region. Eskom, South Africa has a blackout — welcome to Zimbabwe, Zambia — same thing. There is a regional deficit. If the strategy of the minister is to import when everyone is in a net deficit position, it is a disaster but this economy cannot move without addressing the issue of power,” said Biti.
Asked whether there were no prior warn ings to the drop in Lake Kariba’s water level, Zhemu said the government was aware but they had winter crop that needed power and they could not scale down operations.
“Again, honourable Nduna asked whether the board did not know about this risk of low water supply that would arise at Kariba Power Station. I would say ZRA (Zambezi River Authority), as the managers of the water resource, communicates from time to time with Zesco and Zesa. We knew about this situation on the fast receding water levels at Kariba Dam but we were advised at a time when we could not stop some of the units for purposes of water conservation, especially that we were in winter. We had a crop that needed to be protected in terms of adequate moisture that was required during winter cropping season. This was known in terms of the water levels but our hope was the coming in of unit 7 (in Hwange) which was supposed to coincide with the reduction of power generation at Kariba at a time when this unit 7 was supposed to be connected to the grid, bringing in that difference. It was the coincidence that we hoped for, which did not happen.”