ZIMBABWE’S perennial energy crisis will early next year come under the spotlight when government hosts a conference to find a lasting solution to the crippling power deficit, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
Lack of investment in new power plants since Independence in 1980 despite a growing population, coupled with failure by most independent power producers (IPPs) to implement projects owing to scarcity of funding have spawned rolling power cuts that threaten an ailing economy.
According to reliable sources, government will partner the private sector, including international energy firms, in hosting the energy indaba.
Zimbabwe is currently generating less than half of its energy requirements from existing power plants, a problem that could 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).
The energy crisis, now a national security issue, has prompted cabinet to approve the setting up of emergency diesel power plants which will however trigger a significant electricity tariff increase for long-suffering Zimbabweans.
Energy minister Samuel Undenge said 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.
Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) chairman Nigel Chanakira hinted that government is considering hosting the conference as it seeks solutions to the power crisis.
“The idea of an energy conference is still a proposal, we have put it on the table for possible discussions, but we are still consulting with stakeholders. We have not yet been firm on it, so it’s something we have brainstormed about,” Chanakira said in a recent interview.
Licenced IPPs in the country have been accused of failing to make an impact in the energy sector due to lack of funding, with reports suggesting that only four out of 19 IPPs are feeding electricity into the national grid.
The four — Duru (2,2MW), Nyamupinga (1,1 MW), Pungwe (2,75 MW) and Chisumbanje Power Plant (8MW) — are required by law to sell their electricity to Zesa, while the remaining 15 are struggling to raise capital at reasonable interest rates on the international market.
The Zimbabwe Electricity and Distribution Company has introduced a schedule of massive power cuts stretching up to 18 hours a day, attributing this to low water levels at Kariba Dam, generation constraints at Hwange Power Station and limited imports.
However, a global network of top analysts based in Johannesburg, The Brenthurst Foundation, argue that lack of proper planning and poor management of the Kariba Dam has resulted in the current power cuts.-Wongai Zhangazha