Zim crisis runs deeper than meets the eye

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The plunge in electricity generation at the country’s power stations to 958 megawatts (MW) against a daily demand of 2 000MW, shows that the country is facing much deeper problems than most people realise.

Candid Comment by Faith Zaba

Due to the drop in water levels at Kariba Dam, Zimbabwe and Zambia are now getting 474MW each instead of the 750MW that the country previously got.

The plunge at the country’s flagship power plant comes at a time the other main plant, Hwange Thermal Power Station, is frequently under repairs due to archaic and dilapidated equipment.
According to the Zimbabwe Power Company generation status report, Hwange, which was designed to produce 940MW, was generating 414MW as a result of the use of ageing machines, with contributions from other power stations translating to a mere 958MW for the whole country.

This basically means that the country is in a serious crisis. Power is critical, not just for household lighting and consumption, but also to ensure that the country’s economic engine keeps running.

Zimbabweans are now living in darkness, as most suburbs are going for almost 20 hours without electricity, forcing residents to resort to alternative energy sources such as solar, LP gas and generators.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Busisa Moyo has already warned that the increased load-shedding might lead to depressed production, which could lead to further job losses. CZI has projected that capacity utilisation in the manufacturing sector, which had started to improve, will go down by year-end from 39% to about 29% due to the prevailing economic challenges exacerbated by the power shortages.

Zimbabwe has not come up with new sources of power generation, despite the country’s population having almost doubled from 7,2 million in 1980 to more than 14 million. It is still using more or less the same power infrastructure.

The much-anticipated Batoka Gorge power project needs more than US$3 billion for the dam construction and hydro-power plant, which is expected to generate at least 2 400MW. This needs a serious injection of capital which the government does not have.

While we acknowledge that there is an energy crisis in Zimbabwe and that all business and household consumers should make energy efficiency a priority, it is essential for power utility Zesa to operate in a manner that ensures that the parastatal does not charge exorbitant tariffs while at the same time providing a shoddy service.

It boggles the mind how Zesa can continue to splurge cash on luxury cars, huge salaries and bonuses for its executives when most parts of the country go without power three quarters of the day.

The reality is government has to get its act together and put in place regulatory measures that enable independent producers to add significantly to the much-needed power generation.

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