Power imports are not a quick fix
ZIMBABWE’S hopes of deriving immediate respite from a crippling power shortage through energy imports from the region may be dashed following revelations that neighbouring countries are struggling to solve their own electricity supply bottlenecks.
The dire situation comes as domestic power generation continues dwindling. Energy and Power Development permanent secretary Gloria Magombo’s presentation at this week’s post-cabinet briefing highlighted a slump in power imports from the region, with Zimbabwe failing to meet its power generating targets.
“Additional imports will be critical to support imports we are getting from South Africa in terms of Eskom, EDM (Electricidade de Moçambique), HCB (Hidroeléctrica de Cahora Bassa) and Zambia.
“Zambia and Eskom will continue to give us up to 100 megawatts (MW), whilst EDM and HCB is giving us 50MW. And then, we have had an agreement to further increase by an additional 150MW. “While we remain in a constrained environment, the utility (Zesa) has been advised to increase metering customers,” Engineer Magombo said.
In 2019, South Africa’s state-run power utility Eskom provided Zimbabwe with close to 400MW, but there has been a 75% decrease in power imports from the regional economic powerhouse.
A report by Africa Energy shows that Zimbabwe’s imports from Eskom had dropped to 50MW by September this year, owing to South Africa’s own energy woes.
This month, Eskom is set to shut down its Koeberg Unit 1 nuclear power station, to optimise electricity generation.
A recent report by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) revealed that South Africa has no solution to its power crisis, thereby spelling doom for Zimbabwe which was hoping to turn to that country for imports.
Eskom has been looking to replace Zimbabwe as an importer of electricity from Mozambique and Zambia to help ease its own blackouts, according to Bloomberg. In July this year, Eskom was piling the pressure on Zambia and Mozambique to take over Zimbabwe’s contracts that were due to expire at the end of that month.
While Zambia has been providing Zimbabwe with 100MW since August last year, Harare has not found it easy to pay the US$6.3 million monthly import bill. Zimbabwe has also failed to meet its regional importation target as previously laid out by Zesa’s executive chairperson, Sydney Gata.
In November last year, Zimbabwe was targeting a combined import of 400MW from Zambia and Mozambique, yet according to Magombo’s presentation, Zimbabwe currently imports 200MW from the two nations. Zimbabwe’s crisis is continuing to deepen, with local power stations making paltry contributions to the national grid.
Local power stations have been operating below capacity, with Kariba, Hwange and Bulawayo producing a combined 506MW on Thursday, down from 561MW recorded the previous week. The output is lower than the daily requirement of 2 200MW.
Dam levels have also been continually dropping, registering a paltry 3.71% last week, which is 21.06% less than 24.77% recorded on the same day last year. The statistic has continued to drop, recording 2.68%, which is 20.42% lower than levels recorded in the same period last year, leaving the government with no other option than to rely on imports.
As reported by The NewsHawks last week, energy experts from the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) say the country will only have some respite between January and March next year when river basins will be channelling significant volumes of water into Lake Kariba.
The ZPC will also run commissioning tests on the 95%-complete Hwange Thermal Power Station expansion project, which is projected to add 300MW to the national grid this month.
The project is also set to add another 300MW by March, bringing total power generation to 600MW.