Zimbabwe’s perennial energy crisis is set to worsen by year end after it emerged the country’s sole hydroelectric power plant, Kariba Hydropower Station, will further reduce its generating capacity by more than half to below 300 megawatts (MW).
Energy minister Samuel Undenge said yesterday power output from Kariba, which dropped from 750MW in August to current levels of 475MW, will drop further to a meagre 280MW by December, plunging the country into unsustainably long periods of darkness. Faced with this precarious situation that spells doom for industry, cabinet has approved the setting up of emergency diesel power plant which will trigger a significant electricity tariff increase for the long suffering Zimbabweans.
Cabinet agreed to set up a diesel power plant in Mutare by February 2016 to avert a worsening energy crisis that will have devastating repercussions on industry operating on a capacity utilisation of 33,6%.
“The immediate solution to avert a near disaster if we have low rainfall in the next season is to install what are called emergency power plants,” Undenge told captains of industry at a Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce meeting in Harare.
“These are modules of diesel generators which can be installed in the shortest possible time.” Undenge said.
“We were given eight to 12 weeks to cover for the shortfall at Kariba. We are already working on installing these as early as February 2016. We will start with plants with a capacity of 200MW. This has already been approved by cabinet.”
Undenge said to alleviate power shortages, government has to increase the tariffs which significantly affect business already grappling with a plethora of viability challenges. This will also affect household users who are burdened by low salaries and lack of income due to company closures and retrenchments. “I have no doubt that your experience so far with these generators is that they are convenient but are expensive to run. Tariff adjustments are inevitable in 2016, but we will make sure that these will be minimal,” said Undenge.
“Zambia recently announced a tariff hike of almost 100%. 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 shedding hours,”
He said although the cost of generating power from diesel is 35c/kwh, emergency power plants tariff will be blended with those of both hydro and thermal to stand at 14c/kwh up from an average of 10c/kwh.