Power crisis set to worsen
ZIMBABWE’S power utility says while electricity supplies will improve during the second half of the year in line with ramped up generation capacity at the major power stations, the country will experience more rolling blackouts in 2025 as aggregate demand for energy surges.
Analysts say antiquated electricity infrastructure, decades of non-maintenance, foreign currency shortages, legacy debt, sub-economic tariffs, climate change-related factors, among other key variables, have led to erratic power supplies in Zimbabwe.
In recent months, declining water levels at the country’s largest hydro-power station in Kariba and ongoing expansion works at Hwange thermal power station have triggered power cuts lasting up to 12 hours, prompting business to press the panic button.
Gift Ndlovu, commercial services manager at the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) told delegates attending the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries economic symposium in Harare that electricity demand is expected to spike to 3 943 megawatts (MW) from a projected target of 2 711 MW in 2023.
Ndlovu said expansion works at Hwange which were initially expected to be completed by year end 2022 will add 600MW to the national grid, thereby easing the current power outages.
Above-normal rainfall expected during the current season and completion of two units at Hwange by end of March and June, Ndlovu says, will help Zimbabwe cut its power imports from regional peers such as Mozambique and South Africa. He said the power crisis is also spreading across the southern African region, with all countries, except Mozambique and Zambia, having shortfalls.
“We are sitting on applications totalling 2 300MW by 2025 in terms of power required. So we need to work,” Ndlovu says.
“We are guaranteed of having at least a 1 000MW coming to cover the current shortfall that we have so the second half of 2023 is looking good and we also feel that 2024 is also in safe zone in terms of our forecast, but like I told you earlier on that we are sitting on applications aggregating 2 300MW, that will certainly mean that we then start drifting towards the danger zone again as we get to 2025.”
Official figures show that Zimbabwe currently has peak demand of 1 500MW against a generating capacity of 1 300MW.
Independent power producers, Ndlovu says, are currently producing up to 90MW while the bulk comes from Kariba and Hwange power stations.
Projected economic growth over the next few years, Zesa anticipates, will drive demand for power.
Ndlovu says Zimbabwe has several renewable energy projects on the cards which the authorities hope will ease the perennial power crisis.