ZETDC speaks on power shortages

Harmony Agere
\n“The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) is experiencing increased power shortfalls due to low water levels at Kariba Power Station, generation constraints at Hwange Power Station and limited imports”  At a time when consumers were anticipating improved electricity supplies last week, the hopes were shattered as Zesa released nightmarish summer load shedding programmes that will see most suburbs going for days without electricity.

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Following reports that electricity shortages were being caused by low generation at Kariba Power Station due to depleting water levels in the Zambezi River, consumers had hoped that the approaching rainfall season would help ease the situation.

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But according to the update made by Zesa last week, the situation is likely to get worse before it can improve as the utility is facing more severe problems at its other stations apart from Kariba. This has seen the utility producing only 900MW against a national demand of 2 200MW.

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On Thursday Zesa’s subsidiary, the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), posted on its website a report which shows that many power generating stations in the country are either out of service or are operating below capacity.

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At Hwange Power Station, two units are currently down while stations in Harare, Munyati, Bulawayo and Kariba are operating below capacity.
\nAlthough most of the faulty units are expected to be back in service by the beginning of October, the load shedding schedule released by Zesa dampened the consumers’ spirits.

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“The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) is experiencing increased power shortfalls due to low water levels at Kariba Power Station, generation constraints at Hwange Power Station and limited imports,” reads the statement.
\n“The power shortfall is being managed through load shedding in order to balance the power supply available and the demand.”

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The schedule which is divided into day and evening, shows that most suburbs will experience power outages between 4am and 10pm almost on a daily basis.

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For example, Kuwadzana, Crowbrough, Parkridge Estates and Dzivarasekwa, which are grouped under the H11 code on the schedule, will have to do without electricity between 4am and 10pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
\nThis means that during the whole week, the above suburbs will only have electricity for 32 hours during the day.

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For Cranborne Park, Epworth, Msasa Park, Queensdale and some parts of Ruwa, the schedule is even tighter.
\nThese suburbs will have to do without electricity between 4am and 10pm on every single day of the week.
\nThe situation is generally the same in other cities as there is a small difference in terms of hours.

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While consumers have not accepted the situation, they seem to have lost any hope that Zesa will actually supply electricity consistently in the future.

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Consumer Council of Zimbabwe executive director, Ms Rosemary Siyachitema said the situation has been made worse by limited imports as well as the absence of short-term solutions.

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“From the meeting I had with Fullard Gwasira (Zesa spokesperson), I can say the situation does not really look good. Apart from Kariba, there are other problems we did not know about.

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And the other issue is that there is nowhere to import from because our usual suppliers are having their own problems.
\nTo make it worse the solutions that we have in the country are only long-term so consumers should resort to alternative energies in the mean time,” she said.

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Economic experts have, however, warned that the current load shedding regime will compromise the country’s economic turnaround efforts.
\nAnalyst Mr Christopher Mugaga said power shortages contribute to high costs of production.

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“The main problem that we are bound to have is that of value addition and beneficiation because production becomes a prolonged process.
\nRight now we are talking about value addition and beneficiation in the country but that cannot happen when you do not have electricity.

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“Investors want to come into the country but how do they do that when there is no electricity, you probably want to fit a pump, how do you do it? You can talk about generators, yes, but that will still add to costs.

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As a result, electricity is one of the drivers of the high costs of production.”
\nSmall and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) lament that they are the most affected as they have no money to invest in alternative energy sources.
\nHarare informal Traders Council president,

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Mr Onisimo Gore said, “Power outages have affected our businesses greatly because almost everything we do depends on electricity.”
\n“Unfortunately most of us in the SME sector do not have alternatives such as generators so sometimes there is no production for two to three days. This will affect our families and the whole value chain.

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“We are now encouraging our members to buy generators but most of them cannot afford because we use heavy machines which require heavy-duty generators, which we cannot afford. Our appeal is for Zesa to spare the areas that we operate in.”

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While solar energy is one of the most efficient alternatives, experts argue that the country’s policies are not encouraging the switch to solar.
\nThe Gwanda solar project for example, has been stalled for two years yet it could have been contributing to the national grid by now.
\nSolar expert,

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Mr Chamu Muchenje said solar uptake is still very low in the country, adding that Government should spearhead the promotion of solar energy use.
\n“The uptake of solar energy is still very low.

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These things can only work if there is a good policy to go with it, and a policy also needs implementation,” he said.
\nConsumers said Zesa should come up with lasting solutions to the country’s power supplies.

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“The stance being taken by Zesa is not right for a country that needs to revive its economy,” said one consumer. “It’s like they have now given up on providing electricity because you hear them talking more about what is causing low generation but they spend less time talking about how that can be addressed.

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“So water levels are low in Kariba but what are you going to do about it, are you going to fold your hands until the next rainfall?”