Power cuts resurface, Zim struggles to pay for electricity imports

The resurfacing of power cuts across the country as the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) battles to meet national demand owing subdued production mainly at the Hwange Thermal Power Station has become a serious cause for concern.

Of late Zimbabweans have been experiencing interruptions in power supplies at a time when farmers are preparing for the commencement of the imminent 2020/2021 cropping season.

“In the past few days and past few weeks, there is a significant decrease in power supply and there are massive power outages,” lamented Harare East legislator, Tendai Biti, in Parliament recently. 

“We would like to know from the Minister [of Energy], what is the cause of that when we know that water tables have improved at Kariba and we know that power generation now is around 600MW.  What is the cause of that because it is affecting farmers who are in land preparation mode; farmers who are in harvesting mode, if you are a wheat farmer and in business and commerce?  Some of us are in commerce and we are being crippled by power shortages.”

Energy and Power Development Deputy Minister, Magna Mudyiwa, however, said while the electricity situation had improved slightly from what it was in the year 2019 added water at Kariba had not picked up to optimum levels. 

“I am sure that you are aware that we share the waters in the Kariba Dam with the Zambian government, so we are generating but not to the maximum of what we should get from Kariba Dam,” explained Mudyiwa.

“Now coming to the problem of where we are having load shedding here and there, it is all because of the outages that we are experiencing without equipment at Hwange Thermal Power Station.  Hwange Power Thermal Station should generate more than 500MW but at the moment, like the report that we got today it is about 300MW because we are operating with only two units.  The other three units are out and need to be repaired.  The units at Hwange are old and constantly breaking down to the extent that we cannot operate all the six at one time.”

Mudyiwa said while Zimbabwe has always relied on power imports from South Africa and Mozambique to cover for the deficit, there were payment challenges.

“Now the challenge that we were experiencing is that we are still getting the imports but ZETDC have been failing to service their debts with EDM and HCB (Mozambique power utilities),” She said.

“We are trying to be up to date with ESKOM (South African power utility) as much as we can but because of the low tariffs that we were having since March up to now which were not cost reflective, the utility has accrued quite a huge debt, almost $90 million that should be paid.  So that is the challenge that we are having but we are doing our best to make sure that we keep up the good relationship with ESKOM so that we do not go down on our imports.” 

She added: “With Mozambique, we are still importing but it is not as healthy as we are getting from ESKOM.”

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