HomeOpinionCandid Comment: Govt power production inefficiency appalling

Candid Comment: Govt power production inefficiency appalling

The government splurged a jaw-dropping US$225 million on electricity imports in 2021. Despite the huge power import bill, the electricity outages continue to negatively impact the economy — industry, manufacturers, farmers and households.

The electricity problem is not new. It started around 2000 as power demand exceeded supply due to mismanagement and controlled tariffs by the late former president Robert Mugabe’s regime. In the 1990s, electricity supply was not a big problem as demand equated supply.

Zesa executive chairperson Sydney Gata says the parastatal requires US$2,5 billion to solve the crippling load shedding.

Zimbabwe consumes about 2 100 megawatts (MW) per day against a power generation of 1 100 MW from hydro and thermal power plants, which are seriously constrained by obsolete equipment, vandalism and lack of maintenance.

The Kariba hydro-power plant is over 50 years old while Hwange, Bulawayo, Munyati and Harare thermal power stations are over 30 years. The generators constantly break down, affecting the power supply.

This shows that over reliance on non-renewable energy sources is no longer sustainable. Hence, the need to turn to clean energy, such as, solar and wind.

Government has licenced 90 independent power producers (IPPs) to generate 7 000MW. But only 20 are in operation, producing around 100MW.

Threats to withdraw the licences have been made on numerous occasions but nothing has happened. It is a much-a-do-about nothing. The question is how do non-performing IPPs get licences, yet they do not have the capacity to produce electricity. Does the government conduct proper due diligence before dishing out licences? For how long will the government issue empty threats to decisively deal with these companies?

Some of the companies were even paid advances by Zesa for the solar projects but no work has been done.

The US$225 million used to import electricity could be used to support some IPPs, who are keen to implement projects while those without the capacity must lose the licences. Energy and Power Development minister Soda Zhemu has to act to ensure power supplies improve.

What Zhemu and his principal President Emmerson Mnangagwa need to address is underhand dealings in government departments and ministries over the issuance of licences to IPPs. This is why some undeserving companies end up accessing licences they cannot use.

Some multi-national solar power plant buildings firms have been frustrated by officers at the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (Zida) and other ministries, such as those responsible for land.

It has taken over five years for some reputable companies to access land for solar power plant yet there are vast tracts of idle farms around Zimbabwe. Such inefficiency is appalling.

Mnangagwa must weed out officers frustrating developmental projects. Those holding on to IPPs licences for speculative purposes should not be entertained any longer. Zimbabwe requires urgent additional power sources to rebuild the economy.

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