Zesa exports power amid blackouts

THE Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, through its subsidiary Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), has increased the amount of electricity it is exporting to Namibian power utility Nampower amid local blackouts.

Owen Gagare

This is partly designed to fund the Kariba South Extension Project whose cost has ballooned from the initial US$355 million to US$533 million under suspicious circumstances.

The increased exports have exacerbated load-shedding countrywide, leading to a public outcry. Zimbabwe has a peak electricity demand of 2 200 megawatts but as of yesterday Zesa was producing 1 080MW.

The Zimbabwe Independent understands ZPC is exporting 150 megawatts to Nampower as part of an arrangement from a 2009 loan agreement where Zesa borrowed US$40 million. The power utility is also selling about 100MW to Nampower as part of efforts to raise money for the increased costs of the Kariba South project, which was officially launched by President Robert Mugabe last month.

The Kariba South Extension Project deal, which will add 300MW to the national grid when complete in 2017, was clinched during the inclusive government era when Elton Mangoma was Energy and Power Development minister, while his MDC-T Renewal Team counterpart Tendai Biti was Finance minister.

Mangoma and Biti have publicly stated that there was no justification for the escalation of project costs, suggesting that corrupt government officials where pocketing the US$178 million difference.

Mangoma said the original agreement was that ZPC would fund 15% of the project, with the Chinese meeting 85% of the costs. but while the Chinese loan has remained constant, ZPC costs have escalated, forcing the authority to raise funds to bridge the gap.

The Chinese have availed a US$320-million loan for the project while ZPC is weighing in with US$213 million borrowed from financial institutions.

Deputy Energy minister Munacho Mutezo has justified the cost escalation arguing the initial costs just factored in the engineering, procurement and construction, but did not take into account full project costs.

Besides the electricity being exported, ZPC is also seeking to reach a deal with big companies where it will guarantee them uninterrupted power supply in return for cash in advance.

“ZPC will be selling about 80MW to the larger companies and the application has been done in accordance with the Electricity Act (Chapter 13:19) of 2002,” said an official.

While the development would be good news to industry, which has been negatively affected by persistent load-shedding resulting in production going down or production costs increasing, the development will also increase power cuts in residential areas.

Zesa spokesman Fullard Gwasira had not by yesterday responded to written questions sent to him on Tuesday despite promising to do so. He was not picking up his mobile phone on Wednesday and yesterday.

However, Zesa public relations department released a statement to all mainstream newspapers on Wednesday confirming the increase in load-shedding, but did not mention the power exports.

“This has been due to a series of power system disturbances which resulted in forced generator outages and equipment failure, particularly at Hwange Power Station,” it said.

Zesa said the situation had been compounded by reduced imports from Hidroelectrica De CahoraBassa of Mozambique which is supplying the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company with 50MW, although previously the power utility said it could get up to 400MW.

In addition, Zesa said Kariba South generator number 5 came out of service on August 28 and would only be up tomorrow, while 80MW was being channelled to wheat farmers.

“Intermittent trips have been experienced on generators 4 and 6 from September 13, 2014, with the latest trip occurring on Sunday September 28 2014, with the unit still to return. The impact of this outage is the unavailability of 150MW from the grid,” Zesa said.

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