Power cuts: Sweet relief for consumers

Tinashe Farawo
\nLoad shedding could soon ease as 400MW will be fed into Zimbabwe’s national electricity grid following completion of routine maintenance at four key thermal power stations. Government also wants to increase power imports from Mozambique’s Hydro Cahora Bassa and to streamline electricity consumption by some companies.

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Hwange, Harare, Bulawayo and Munyati thermal power stations have been undergoing mandatory refurbishments and were feeding limited supplies into the national grid.

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This — coupled with Kariba Hydro Power Station’s inhibited capacity due to low dam levels — saw the country generate just 700MW in recent weeks against demand of 2 200MW.

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With maintenance complete, Hwange will now feed over 600MW into the national grid and the other three plants a cumulative 300 MW-plus.
\nThe refurbishments have unlocked an additional 300MW at Hwange and 100MW at the other power stations.
\nKariba is generating 475MW.

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Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Samuel Undenge exclusively told The Sunday Mail that authorities expected the present scale of load shedding to recede in the interim.

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“The situation is going to improve as all six units at Hwange Thermal Power Station are now functioning, generating almost 600MW. Electricity generation is going to increase.

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“If we add what Hwange and Kariba are producing to the power being generated at plants like Harare, Bulawayo and Munyati, severe electricity cuts will no longer be there.”

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Dr Undenge said his ministry was negotiating for an additional 100MW from Mozambique’s HCB.
\nZimbabwe has always imported 50MW from that plant, and started receiving a further 40MW some two weeks ago. Now the country wants to top up on this.

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HCB’s generation capacity has not been diminished by Zambezi River’s low volumes as it is downstream of the giant water body.
\nDr Undenge added that there were plans to streamline electricity consumption by certain major companies following indications that they are using inefficient and high energy-consuming equipment. He said Cabinet will — at its next sitting — would consider these and other interim measures.

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“We are expecting more power from Mozambique as the negotiations are now at an advanced stage. So, really, the issue of massive power-cuts will come to an end.

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“I am not in a position to give you more details, but we have some companies which are using old and less efficient equipment. We are going to direct Zesa to reduce power supplies to them. They must move with the times and use efficient equipment to save energy.”

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On the situation in Kariba and criticism about his apparent inaction, he said: “Are we responsible for drought? It is beyond human control. No one has commended Government for the steady supply of electricity in winter. Now that we have a minor setback – which we have dealt with – there is a lot of noise.

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“It’s not nice for me to always be in the newspapers instead of delivering energy to the people. I am a man of action. The electricity situation is not as bad as we are made to believe by the media.

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“The whole Southern African region is facing electricity problems, but we are working to ensure that we deliver electricity to the people.”
\nIn 2014/15, Sadc experienced a drought and subsequently failed to replenish its critical water bodies.

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Zimbabwe and Zambia have been affected by Zambezi River’s low level as their main hydro power stations are failing to draw sufficient water for optimum electricity generation.

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In August 2015, the Zambezi River Authority reduced both countries’ water allocations for power generation from 45 billion to 40 billion cubic meters to manage the situation. Zambia obtains 80 percent of its power through hydro means, but is getting 20 percent (305MW), while Zimbabwe’s Kariba Hydro Power Station is generating 475MW instead of the optimum 750MW.

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Authorities in Zambia have asked mining companies there to reduce their power demand by 30 percent, though this has affected State revenue and seen copper prices drop by 20 percent.

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Zimbabwe wants to produce at least 4 000MW by 2018 through major upgrades at existing plants and construction of new stations.