INCESSANT power cuts currently being experienced around the country are a passing phase, as power utility zesa Holdings will invest US$7,1 billion in the next 10 years to simultaneously address current challenges and invest in the long term.
Existing power shortages are being caused by recurrent electric faults due to ageing infrastructure, particularly at Hwange Power Station, a situation that has seen zesa implement a more stringent load shedding regime. As of Friday, zesa was generating a paltry 1 095 megawatts (MW) against a national demand of 2 030MW with Hwange Power Station being the worst performing, having lost most of its units to faults.
The current shortages were predicted beforehand, due to Covid-19 disruptions and other factors. Zimbabwe is not the only country in Southern Africa facing electricity shortages with Zambia and South Africa also affected.
Explaining the current power situation and the interventions that the power utility is implementing, zesa executive chairman Dr Sydney Gata on Friday told The Sunday Mail: “In addition to ageing infrastructure, the obtaining electricity shortage in the country is being caused by a combination of factors which include a non-cost reflective tariff, a high debtors book and liquidity challenges.”
Dr Gata said zesa is working on the solutions.
“ZPC (Zimbabwe Power Company) is currently implementing a number of projects to increase the supply capacity and meet demand. The projects portfolio includes a mix of thermal, hydro and solar power plants to be implemented to meet the Vision 2030 national goal of an upper middle-income economy.
“Apart from the green field projects, ZPC is also refurbishing its existing plants which are now old.”
Dr Gata said zesa is undertaking interventions such as the intensification of prepaid metering and smart metering installation to enhance revenue collection as well as network rehabilitation programmes.
While the power utility is working round the clock to ease the immediate challenges, the future bodes well for Hwange Power Station, as next year, an additional 600MW will be added to units 7 and 8, which are almost 80 percent complete.
Part of the US$7,1 billion will be allocated to address current faults affecting the country’s major power stations, as the utility looks to replace ageing infrastructure, but the bulk of the kitty will be allocated to 12 new power generation projects in the next decade.
According to Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP), limited maintenance during Covid-19 lockdowns compounded by logistical challenges of bringing in spares contributed to frequent power outages in the region.
SAPP executive director Mr Stephen Dihwa said his organisation was co-ordinating efforts to improve the power situation in SADC. He said countries in the SAPP are set to commission up to 10 000MW in the next three years.
“A total of 2 480MW of generation capacity was commissioned in the SADC region in 2020 contributed by Angola, DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania,” Mr Dihwa said.
“Several generation projects are under construction and in the next three years we expect a total of around 10 000MW of generation capacity to be commissioned.
“However, the generation capacity of 5 000MW is also expected to be decommissioned during the same period. Based on current electricity demand projections, these projects should result in sufficient power supply in the region.”
According to Mr Dihwa, SADC needs about US$118 billion to have sufficient power in the next 20 years.
“Based on the long-term plans carried out by SAPP, the region will need to install about 75 gigawatts generation capacity in the next 20 years at a cost of US$118 billion,” he said.
“It should, however, be noted that SAPP is now revising these long-term plans in line with new climate change and renewable energy targets.”
Several projects including the Harare and Bulawayo Thermal Stations repowering, as well as Hwange Life Extension, are some of the major works zesa is seized with.
The new projects will increase electricity generating capacity from the current 2 280MW to about 5 177MW by the year 2030.
Another 2 400MW is expected to be added to the national grid as a result of the construction of the US$4,6 billion Batoka Hydro Power Station, expected to commence in the next two years.
In the long term, zesa is also working with its Zambian counterpart for the Zambezi-Kafue (10 Gorges) Hydro Power Projects which have a potential of 14 000MW.
Most of Zimbabwe’s power stations have outlasted their lifespan with some of the infrastructure commissioned as far back as 1957.