As the majority thought the power situation could not get any worse, Energy minister Samuel Undenge has dispelled that notion. Undenge told delegates yesterday attending the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) discussion on power challenges in the capital that Zimbabweans should brace for tougher times ahead.
Zimbabwe Independent Comment
This is because the meteorology department has warned of imminent low rainfalls and drought. As such, he said, Kariba could by December be generating 289 megawatts (MW) from the current 475MW.
Zimbabwe cut electricity generation from its normal 750MW to 475MW recently after the Zambezi River Authority, an organisation responsible for the management of water in the Zambezi basin, imposed rationing of water supplies to conserve the resource until the dam levels rise to requisite levels. The situation is not just bad for businesses, which are struggling with erratic power supplies, but could hit consumers’ already stretched pockets.
Should government proceed with a plan to generate electricity from diesel power plants, electricity tariffs are set to increase, hitting household and industrial consumers. Already, Zimbabwean manufacturers are not competitive as they contend with antiquated equipment after a decade of economic mismanagement charecterised by foreign exchange shortages, and an overvalued United States dollar. This effectively means whatever little competitiveness was left has been eroded. Should the water levels at the dam fall further, power generation will have to be stopped, a situation which will result in the power utility rolling out intense load shedding throughout Zimbabwe.
“The situation we are in is not normal and therefore we need to bite the bullet. Power is not going to come cheaply. We will have to sacrifice if we are to lessen our shedded hours,” he said.
In order to avert a power crisis, government is in the process of installing emergency diesel power plants. These are expected to start contributing 200MW to the national grid by February at the earliest.
For 35 years, President Robert Mugabe’s government has not invested in new power plants, meaning industrial growth over the years and the demand for electricity cannot match supply.
The country needs around 2 200MW and usual supplies 60% of this.
In April 2015, for example, Harare, Bulawayo and Munyati power stations produced a combined output of 78MW against a capacity of 265MW. Worryingly, other countries that traditionally helped Zimbabwe need every watt they generate. Even if they do have a bit to spare, the country’s credit worthiness and ability to pay dissuades power utilities from doing business with them. Zimbabwe owes millions to South African power utility Eskom. All this comes at a time the Zimbabwe Electricity and Distribution Company has introduced a schedule of massive power cuts stretching up to 18 hours a day owing to the low water levels at Kariba Dam, generation constraints at Hwange Power Station and limited imports. Now it seems both household and industrial consumers could go without power for longer periods at this rate. This is an alarming state of affairs, which calls on government to urgently find a solution as this spells more doom for the already battered economy.