Power outages: Aging equipment, copper cables theft to blame

Energy and Power Development minister Fortune Chasi says the theft of copper cables coupled with aging equipment at the country`s power stations is the cause of the rolling power outages currently being experienced in the country.

This came out during a Water, Energy, Climate, Industry (WASHEN) Nexus Conference held at the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre in Bulawayo, Thursday under the theme ‘Developing Sustainable Solutions to Empower the Future’.

In a speech read on his behalf his deputy, Honourable Magna Mudyiwa, Minister Chasi said foreign currency is needed to acquire new machinery and spare parts.

“The thermal power plants which are Hwange, Bulawayo, Munyati and Harare power stations cannot sustain maximum power production because of aged equipment.

“Foreign currency is required to acquire new replacement machinery and spare parts. The power stations operate below 50 percent of rated capacity most of the time,” said Minister Chasi.

He added that low water levels at Kariba Dam have compounded the power crisis which has seen citizens going for up to 18 hours without electricity.

“It is important to note that the large scale power plants have not been able to generate power at maximum rated capacity due to numerous challenges that include among other things, the low water level in Kariba dam, coal shortages, and old generation equipment,” said Min. Chasi.

“Currently, water allocations by Zambezi River Authority allow an average of 100MW to 300MW from Kariba South power station against the installed capacity of 1050MW.

“The country has an installed capacity of 2260MW at its ZESA owned power stations, namely Kariba Hydro powerplant, Hwange thermal powerplant and three small thermals at Munyati, Harare, and Bulawayo respectively.”

Minister Chasi, however, said the power utility will continue to refurbish and maintain the existing generation plants at Hwange and small thermals to improve its systems.

Minister Chasi bemoaned the continued vandalism and theft of infrastructure.

“The sector continues to experience rampant theft and vandalism of grid infrastructure targeting copper cables and transformers affecting the effective transmission and distribution of power,” he said.

“In response, to this, the utility is working on a number of ways to protect the infrastructure from vandalism such as engaging ICT providers in order to protect and monitor infrastructure, increasing protection through physical barriers and shifting to the use of dry transformers which will not be targeted for oil.”

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