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Lawmakers fret over new rolling blackouts

Due to outdated technology, small power plants in Bulawayo, Munyati, and Harare are unable to produce electricity. The plants will eventually be decommissioned, according to Energy minister Moyo.




ENERGY minister Edgar Moyo has been summoned by Parliament to issue a statement on what the government is doing to address hydrological challenges at Kariba Power Station where there is limited production due to dwindling water levels triggering rolling power outages of up to 18 hours in urban areas.

The development came after Murehwa South MP Noah Mangondo on Wednesday revealed in Parliament that Kariba Power Station has lost 800 megawatts of production due to low water levels.

Mangondo said: “I confirm that last Sunday, I went to the Kariba Dam Wall. I was informed that we had lost 800 megawatts of generating capacity due to the low water levels. This means that due to climate change, we may not make much progress in terms of reliance on hydro-electricity as a country. My question to the honourable minister is, we had a mega project, the Gokwe-Sengwa Project which had the capacity to generate 2 000 megawatts. These megawatts would certainly ameliorate the current power shortages.”

“What has happened to that mega project which has so much potential to address some of the problems that we have in terms of power supply?”

After Energy and Power Development deputy minister Yeukai Simbanegavi failed to give a specific answer, the Speaker of Parliament ruled that there will be a full ministerial statement brought to the House for presentation to explain the power crisis.

Earlier on in the National Assembly, several MPs took Simbanegavi to task over the power crisis.

“In recent times we have seen an increase in load shedding. What are the current Zesa energy requirements versus the current output production in light of the incessant and exacerbated load shedding being experienced in the country?” asked Mkoba North MP John Kuka.

“We have a lot of dams in Zimbabwe where we can direct our power generation, the likes of Tugwi-Mukorsi, Lake Rusape and Osborne. What is the ministry doing to make sure they do not rely on Kariba Dam alone?”

Makoni Central MP Patrick Sagandira also suggested to the deputy minister that since Zimbabwe has several dams, the country can direct power generation from there, singling out Tugwi-Mukorsi, Lake Rusape and Osborne dams.

Rammigious Matangira, the Bindura South MP asked if any research had been done so as to determine if the thermal power that is generating electricity can also be complemented by uranium that Zimbabwe has to build some hectares that will produce power.

It has also emerged that industry is suffering from the crippling power cuts with some companies enduring prolonged  unscheduled  load shedding of up to 12 hours daily.

The low generation capacity at Kariba South Hydroelectric Power Station has forced power utility Zesa to implement rolling power cuts.

The Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), a power generation unit of Zesa Holdings, is producing 1 206 megawatts (MW) against national demand of 1 700MW.

The largest coal-fired power plant, Hwange Power Station, is producing 914MW, while Kariba South Hydroelectric Power Station is producing 292MW out of a potential 1 050MW, according to generation statistics from the ZPC.

To cover the gap, Zimbabwe imports electricity from South African power utility Eskom, Mozambique’s Hydro Cahora Bassa and Zesco of Zambia.

However, Zimbabwe is not getting adequate imports as Zesa entered into non-firm contracts with the regional power utilities, meaning they can only supply electricity if they have a surplus.

Exacerbating the situation is that Eskom and other regional power utilities are also suffering from electricity insufficiency, making it difficult for them to supply Zimbabwe.

Due to outdated technology, small power plants in Bulawayo, Munyati, and Harare are unable to produce electricity. The plants will eventually be decommissioned, according to Energy minister Moyo.

According to the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), the lake level has decreased to 477.30m which is 12.4% usable storage as at June 24 2024 compared to 479.93m which translate to 31.30% usable storage recorded on the same date last year.

The ZRA is a joint venture outfit owned by the governments of Zimbabwe and Zambia responsible for the management of the Zambezi River waters and the Kariba Dam complex which comprises the dam wall and water storage reservoirs and other associated ancillary facilities such as lake levels and river inflows monitoring equipment.

The Kariba Lake is designed to operate between levels 475.50m and 488.50m (with 0.70m freeboard) for hydropower generation.

“The issue of power supply in the country is heavily affected by hydrological issues in Lake Kariba, where we have lost over 800 megawatts,” said the Zambezi River Authority.

Captains of industry say the power crisis has deepened.

The power crisis, according to the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president Mike Kamungeremu,  has affected industry.

Kamungeremu, however, advised companies with large plants to engage Zesa in order for them to have special lines so that they will not be affected by the power outages.

“So naturally, there will be lost production, which may probably see certain products being hit by shortages,” he said.

“For the big plants, unfortunately, they just have to wait for power to be restored. They probably need to have some special arrangements with the Zesa so that they are spared from load shedding. I know quite a number that have done that. Some have been given dedicated lines so that they are always on priority.”

Kamungeremu went on to say that some businesses have begun to invest in alternate power sources in order to maintain operations even in the face of ongoing power disruptions.

“We are investing in alternative power sources, quite a number of companies have gone green, they have installed solar plants at their premises,” he said.

“Some are using generators like I highlighted the effect of which is an increase in cost. So, yes, we are employing some other alternatives that are still helping us to continue doing business and I actually appeal to those that have not to actually think of investing in alternative energy so that we do not rely solely on the grid.”

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