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Zim braces for dark Christmas


Power woes mount despite Hwange generation boost



ZIMBABWE’S power generation continues in disarray, with the country relying on imports on the back of already unsustainable debt, while the Hwange Power Station Unit 7 has failed to bring an end to load-shedding.


  As of Thursday this week, the country’s power stations produced a combined 983 megawatts (MW), which is higher than around 500MW produced in December when load shedding was at peak.

Despite the increase, the total output is less than off-peak daily demand of 1 700MW and winter demand of 2 200MW. Some residential areas continue going for up to 18 hours without power.

This week in the National Assembly, Energy minister Soda Zhemu said while Hwange’s Unit 7 plant had been poised to ramp up power output, the actual generation has been depressed due to obsolete equipment in other units of the coal-fired power station.

Zhemu was responding to the opposition CCC legislator for Marondera Central, Caston Matewu, who had asked what the government is doing to avail electricity, as power outages had continued despite assurances of improved supply upon the synchronisation of Hwange Power Station’s Unit 7.

Matewu said in his constituency electricity supplies are cut off for close to 22 hours daily.
In response, Zhemu said: “I get the concern from the honourable member that the power situation has been depressed. I will give an explanation, but also to indicate that Unit 7 was finally synchronised on the 20th of March and is still undergoing commissioning tests where it shall be operating at various performing levels.

“It started off at 50MW, moved to 75MW and, as we speak, it is sending out around 200 megawatts, but it shall be scaled up to 300MW with time as they continue to do their compliance tests,” Zhemu said.

He admitted that obsolete equipment has been a major challenge in power generation at Hwange Thermal Power Station.

“Hwange Power Station, the old units, continue to give us problems. I once said in this House that ultimately our intention would be to rehabilitate the old units with the intention of restoring the performance to the installed capacity of 920 megawatts.

“As we speak today, Hwange is sending out 303 megawatts into the grid and we are also receiving electricity from Kariba. We are still at 350 megawatts. It is our hope that as we begin the month of April, water allocations are going to be reviewed by Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) so that we ramp up on our production of electricity from Kariba.

“We are looking forward to the completion of the expansion project by bringing in Unit 8 which will come after April but precisely in May, according to the targets that ZPC [Zimbabwe Power Company] has on bringing that unit onto the grid,” he said.

This week, Hwange alone produced 617MW, which is higher than the total produced by all power stations in December last year when the country was at the peak of load shedding.
Zhemu said power supply has been worsened by increased economic activity  rhetoric that has in the past been rejected by opposition legislators.

“You will agree with me that there is expansion in agriculture and in the mining sector. So, the demand continues to grow but we have plans to deal with that growth that is also happening in terms of the demand side.

While Zhemu said power imports are still key to ramping supply, the country has in some cases been failing to pay regional suppliers on time.

“We will not reduce on the level of our imports immediately until we have sufficient power supply in the country. Unfortunately, South Africa is having their own problems which we are all aware that they have a crisis in their country.  

“Whenever they are having that crisis — obviously, they will not send us as per what has been contracted. So the policy, to respond to the honourable member’s question, we will continue to import until we have reached a level of self-sufficiency in the country,” he said.

Earlier this month, Zambia’s power utility, Zesco Limited, gave the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) notice to cut off supplies over the non-payment of a US$10.7 million debt owed to the entity for the months of February and March 2023.

Zesco managing director Victor Mapani announced at a Press conference that Zambian households and businesses would enjoy access to electricity 24 hours a day.

Mapani said improvements in power generation came as a result of several initiatives, including the revamping of the Victoria Falls Power Station and upgrades at the Kafue Gorge Upper and Lower power stations, which generated an additional 170 megawatts.

Other regional neighbours have equally been hamstrung, with pressure mounting on President Cyril Ramaphosa to resign over rolling power cuts which have seen the country undergo immense load shedding, further jeopardising Zimbabwe’s power import prospects.
During the debate, Hatcliffe MP Allan Markham quizzed Zhemu as to why the government has been failing to pay independent power producers (IPP) in United States dollars.

In response, Zhemu said the government has been getting insufficient revenue.

“We are all aware that we supplement our locally generated power with imports and we promulgated a policy to deal with collection of revenue in foreign currencies specifically for the purposes of paying for power imports — that money is not adequate until a time when we would have replaced the capacity that we are importing with locally generated power, just like we are doing with Units 7 and 8.

“When we have fully replaced that power, the power that we are importing with what we are generating locally then we will stop importing and when we have stopped importing, obviously we will be able to pay IPPs in dollars but, as we speak, the capacity is not there.
“At the moment, Zesa does not have adequate funds to pay for power imports and locally generated power,” he said. 

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