The Sunday News
Lincoln Towindo, Harare Bureau
THE Government will this week release US$5 million for the refurbishment of a power generating unit at Hwange Power Station (HPS) as part of contingency measures to ease the current crippling power shortages.
Refurbishment of Unit 6 at HPS, which is expected to take up to two months, will unlock an additional 170 megawatts to augment supplies. Zesa is producing 1 270 MW against a winter peak demand of over 1 700 MW, leaving the country with a deficit of around 450MW. ZETDC acting managing director Engineer Ralph Katsande told our Harare Bureau that authorities are exploring both demand and supply side options to address the power shortages.
“The first way we are trying to address this problem is through our own internal generation. We are trying to increase capacity at Hwange, even though it’s an old thermal plant, and we are working on refurbishing Unit 6, which requires about US$5 million to repair the turbine, then we get an additional 170MW. That on its own will reduce load-shedding by the same amount.”
It is believed that the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) have since made an undertaking to release the funds “in the next few days”. Eng Katsande said there were plans to source 400MW from South Africa during off-peak periods as the country was also grappling with insufficient power supplies. It will also enable Zesa to ease pressure on Kariba, where the progressively dwindling water levels in the Zambezi River continues to affect output.
“Once we have paid (our debt), we expect that we can get extra imports during off-peak. And why do we want off-peak? Because we know also Eskom (South Africa) has been load-shedding, but the power we need is that from off-peak because we then can shut down Kariba and conserve water so that it can last us longer,” he said.
There is also a limited amount of power that the country can get from Mozambique’s Hydro Electrica de Cahora Bassa as the company is doing some overhaul at its plant. Overall, Government expects to come up with a definitive plan this week.
HCB has already offered power to Zimbabwe and Zambia in exchange for further reduced power generation at the Kariba Dam hydro plants. Cahora Bassa Dam is overflowing following the recent cyclone-induced floods, and authorities in Mozambique have asked Zimbabwe and Zambia — through the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) — to cut down generation and store more water in Kariba Dam, which is upstream of Cahorra Bassa on the Zambezi River.
Eng Katsande said: “We are also looking at tapping into the day-ahead market of the Southern African Power Pool where other trading utilities have an excess we can purchase from them.”
Zesa is also looking at demand-side interventions that include requesting large power users to cut down on usage during peak hours. The utility is working with winter cropping communities to ensure that they are not affected by load-shedding. Zimbabwe is facing power shortages owing to depressed power generation at Kariba, whose water levels have depleted as a result of drought in the 2018/2019 summer season.