By BLESSINGS MASHAYA
ZIMBABWEAN authorities will today deliberate on how to mitigate the worsening power crisis amid growing calls for increased investment in more reliable and clean electricity generation plants.
At the same time, former Energy ministers in the short-lived 2009 government of national unity— Elias Mudzuri and Elton Mangoma — urged authorities to re-ignite plans that had been mooted during that time to end the perennial problem of electricity shortages.
Yesterday, deputy minister of Information Kindness Paradza confirmed to the Daily News that today’s Cabinet meeting would address the issue of the worsening power crisis.
“Yes, the Cabinet is going to discuss the issue and the nation will be informed during the post Cabinet media briefing,” Paradza said.
Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, Zesa yesterday held a crisis meeting which involved senior officials from the Energy ministry.
“Although there is a need to speed up the completion of new units at Hwange, currently our focus is to come up with immediate solutions which will be approved by the Cabinet.
“Some of the immediate solutions are to ask Zambia to give us water for power generation. The other solution is to increase our imports.
“We are currently doing everything to make sure that the situation improves next year,” one of the sources told the Daily News.
On their part, both Mudzuri and Mangoma said all stakeholders needed to put all hands on the deck and look for more investments in the energy sector.
“The current power crisis needs serious commitments. The indicators have been there for a long time ever since I was a minister.
“We need to make serious investments in the energy sector either in Batoka since coal energy is being phased out.
“There is a need to speed up the completion of the units at Hwange power station for the time being while we work on Batoka and other projects,” MudzurI told the Daily News.
“What we have been concentrating on has failed us. We put much money into the extension of Kariba but this didn’t add any value because the water is giving us challenges.
“We need to come up with other alternatives like solar and others. We need to come up with serious energy projects,” he added.
Mangoma — who succeeded Mudzuri as Energy minister – said during the subsistence of the GNU, they had come up with a number of plans to deal with the power situation.
“The plan was already there to set up energy generation plants and they (Zanu PF) threw it away … We were planning to have solar farms and we had started tendering with Gwanda but it was taken off the rail.
“The second issue was to increase 600 megawatts at the Hwange power station.
“We had just tendered but when they took over, they scrapped everything and only tendered it three years later and that project is four years behind,” Mangoma told the Daily News.
“There has been gas in Mozambique. We had started negotiating that gas should be piped into Harare and as it passes through Bindura, we would put a gas-generated power plant in Bindura but this was thrown off the books.
“The big one was to start negotiating with Sadc countries to build a power plant in Inga dam in Congo by now it would be under construction and it would have provided more than 100 000 megawatts — all these projects are off the table,” Mangoma added.
This comes as the power situation has worsened after Zesa was advised to temporarily stop generating power from Kariba Dam until next year — after it had exhausted its allocated ration.
This was revealed at the weekend by the chief executive of the Zambezi River Authority, Munyaradzi Munodawafa, who said Zesa’s Kariba South plant, had exhausted its allocated quota.
“The Zambezi River Authority is left with no choice but to firmly guide that ZPC/KHPC immediately ensures that generation activities at the south bank power station are wholly suspended henceforth, until January 2023 when a further review of the substantive Hydrological Outlook at Kariba will be undertaken which will include consideration of the total reservoir live storage build-up which would have resulted from a shutdown of the Kariba South Bank Power Station power generation operations,” Munodawafa said.
All this is set to worsen the relentless power cuts that have been ravaging the country.
This comes as Zesa at the weekend said it was battling numerous operational challenges, including failing to secure enough coal for its thermal-fired power stations due to a financial crunch.
In addition, to the coal problems, the power utility also said five of its generators were not working due to various other reasons, including Kariba Dam’s precarious current water levels.
As a result, Zesa power supplies around the country have been seriously impacted over the past few days, worsening an already dire situation which has cost commerce and industry hundreds of millions of American dollars in losses this year alone.
In an update at the weekend, the power utility said two units were currently down at its Kariba Station, while Hwange was operating at half capacity after three units broke down — meaning that only three generators were currently in operation.
Consequently, Zesa said it was only producing 1 007 Megawatts (MW), against a demand of 1 565 MW — a shortfall of 558 MW on average daily demand.
“Hwange G5 (generator) manually tripped … due to excessive turbine vibrations … its return to service to be announced.
“G6 has been taken out of service … due to poor vacuum, condenser cleaning in progress. G3 taken out of service … for tube leak repairs,” it said.
All this comes as authorities are bidding to end the country’s perennial power shortages which have caused disquiet among both consumers and businesses.
Delivering his State of the Nation Address (Sona) at the new Parliament building in Harare last week, Mnangagwa said the government was about to finally ease the power shortages.
In his 2023 national budget on Thursday, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, also reiterated that the government was committed to ending the country’s brutal power cuts, which he said had dominated pre-budget discussions with various stakeholders, including business — which has revealed that it lost hundreds of millions of United States dollars due to the unrelenting electricity outages.
“Domestic electricity generation faces a number of challenges including obsolete equipment and infrastructure, inability to attract significant private sector investment and other financing instruments, as well as other structural bottlenecks — all of which have impacted on electricity supply in the country, leading to load shedding.
“In this regard, restoring the stability of power supply in the country was identified by a broad range of stakeholders during the 2023 budget consultation process as central in accelerating economic transformation.
“Availability of enough water for electricity generation at Kariba Dam during the 2022/23 season remains a risk that could force the Zambezi River Authority to reduce water allocation to Kariba Hydro Power Station, thereby substantially reducing electricity generation capacity.
“To stabilise power supply, efforts are underway to ensure that the Hwange Unit 7 & 8 project is completed on time to bring the additional 600MW on to the national grid.
“This, together with increased maintenance of old thermal plants and investments by Independent Power Producers (IPPs), is expected to stabilise electricity supply in the medium term,” Ncube said. – Daily News