By Tinashe Mungazi
Load shedding is expected to ease in the coming days as government is working towards bringing some of the units at Hwange Power Station back online, a cabinet minister has said.
The country is currently grappling with power cuts as a result of depressed supplies from Hwange and Kariba Hydro Power Station due to breakdowns.
The country is currently producing 270MW at Hwange Power Station while Kariba is churning out 890MW with an average of 200MW being imports against a national demand of 2 200MW.
Energy and Power Development minister, Soda Zhemu, on Thursday toured the Hwange power expansion project site.
The $1.5bn project is being undertaken by a special-purpose vehicle (SPV) comprising Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), a subsidiary of Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), and Chinese state-owned hydropower engineering and construction company Sinohydro.
The minister said while breakdowns at HPS had adversely affected power generation, repairs on Unit 5 had been completed and was awaiting delivery of diesel to fire it up.
Only three out of six units are currently in service.
“Three units are currently in service and doing between 260 and 270MW which is actually inadequate considering the power demands in the country. So far we are expecting Unit 5 to be back in service anytime once diesel is made available which we heard is on its way and in the next 2-3 days Unit 5 will be back in service. Once that unit is back online then the current power outages will be a thing of the past,” the minister said.
The firing and stabilisation process of a unit to bring it online requires 96 000 litres of diesel.
The minister said the Covid-19 lockdown delayed the scheduled annual maintenance of the units.
“There is work taking place on units 3 and 6 through arrangements to have the experts coming back into the country and do the refurbishments. It is my conviction that once units 3 and 6 are brought into service at the scheduled time in October and December then we will be meeting the power requirements for the agricultural sector and industry then we will be on a trajectory towards attaining the goals espoused by President Mnangangwa’s vision.”
The minister dismissed reports that the country had been cut off by external electricity suppliers due to non-payment of supplies.
“Contrary to reports circulating that we were switched off as a result of non-payment, we have good and cordial relations with our suppliers in South Africa and Mozambique. We understand that we have been in the winter season where the suppliers were also facing an increased demand for power. However, that did not impact much on our supplies and we continued to honour our payment obligations.”
He said the ministry had advised ZESA to shift to coke oven gas to fire its units as compared to diesel which was imported and expensive for the country.
Work on the stage 7 and 8 which is envisaged to add 600MW into the national grid has been adversely affected the pandemic as critical staff and equipment is still locked up in China.
According to the Project Site manager, Engineer Forbes Chanakira the first unit which was supposed to have been completed by October 2021 is most likely to be done by February 2022.
“We are currently reeling from the effects of Covid-19 which will see our failure to meet project completion initially targeted for unit 7 which was October 2021 but current delays put completion date to February 2022. Delays in manufacturing and shipping of equipment and failure for skilled manpower for installation and construction has greatly affected progress which is at 60 percent, ” said Eng Chanakira.