BY TENDAI MAKARIPE
LOCAL businesses, still reeling from the devastating effects of Covid-19 lockdowns, have suffered yet another blow following a load shedding schedule by the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC).
ZETDC is experiencing a power shortfall due to generation constraints at Hwange Power Station, limited imports and dam rehabilitation at Kariba, which requires two generators to be taken out daily for 12 hours.
Resultantly, load shedding will be affecting individuals and corporates for up to 12 hours daily.
“It is imperative to note that the programme takes cognisance and gives priority to critical supply points such as major referral hospitals, water and sewer installations, national security establishments, oxygen producing plants and winter wheat farmers,” ZETDC said in a statement.
This is a major blow to local businesses who rely on electricity for production.
The industrial sector uses electricity for operating industrial motors and machinery, lights, computers and office equipment and equipment for facility heating, cooling, and ventilation.
Business leaders this week said unreliable electricity supply was an obstacle to entrepreneurial activity at a time businesses were beginning to record significant progress after months of reduced activity due to the lockdown.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) president Denford Mutashu described the load shedding schedule as punitive.
“The current load shedding schedule is a huge set back to business and consumers’ expectations especially just after coming out of a rigorous Covid-19 level 4 lockdown. Power supply is a critical enabler and a driver of economic development and the current supply bottlenecks hurt business,” Mutashu said.
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent this week, Clearworld Cleaners chief executive officer Lancelot Mupanga said the power outages pose a threat to business survival.
“Small-to-medium enterprises are at great risk because many of them do not have the financial muscle to set up alternative power sources at their premises,” Mupanga said.
“If a client in need of cleaning services experiences a power outage at his or her premises but does not have alternative power sources like solar or a generator, we are forced to ferry our power generator and this eats into our profit margins.
“It’s even more problematic when we have to carry our generator to attend to a client when power is also unavailable at our offices.”
Setting up a solar system in Zimbabwe is a burden to many organisations as it requires lithium ion batteries which cost around US$950 each, at least two 10KV inverters costing an average of US$3 800 each, panels and cables among others.
Generators like a 20KVA diesel one cost about US$9 000.
Business players told the Independent that the prices were beyond their reach.
Economist Benedict Marufu said with such power shortages as currently experienced throughout the country, some of the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1)’s objectives will remain a pipe dream because little can be achieved in an energy scarce environment.
“NDS1 seeks to facilitate the achievement of an e-enabled economy wherein sectors make use of information communication technology to improve efficiency in line with the global trends but with such a load shedding schedule, attainment of such objectives becomes very difficult,” Marufu said.
The estimated target of growing the economy at an average GDP rate of above 5% as espoused in the NDS is also in jeopardy considering the time that businesses are running without power.
In the 2019, World Bank Enterprise Survey, which included 144 economies, business owners identified electricity as one of the biggest obstacles to commercial activities.