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Miners, timber producers to import own power

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Government has authorised Zimbabwe’s miners and timber producers to import power from regional utilities on their own and wheel the load through Zesa Holdings’ transmission and distribution company at a special rate.

This independent power importation arrangement is primed to alleviate the country’s power crisis widely seen as holding up the country’s recovery from a decade-long recession, which suppressed power demand to a record low from 2007 to 2008.

Estimates say Zimbabwe currently requires an additional 1 750 megawatts to power its economy to recovery following an upturn in the economy last year, which has stoked peak demand to about 2 100MW against the country’s available generation capacity of 1 700MW.

Next year, demand is projected to surge to 2 700 MW, driven by miners currently making frantic efforts to reopen discontinued operations and ramp up to take advantage of a recovery in global commodity prices.

The manufacturing industry also aims to expand capacity utilisation, which is estimated to have plateaued around 35% owing to challenges related to power and capital. 450MW of this load-flow would be dedicated to the country’s rural electrification programme.

Joseph Kanyekanye, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president, on Tuesdayrevealed timber producers in the country signed up for the independent power importation arrangement a fortnight ago and would be travelling to Mozambique seal the deal.

“Timber producers have been offered 40 MW from EDM of Mozambique to be wheeled through the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) and they have accepted,” Kanyekanye said. “I think a trip to Mozambique will be necessary.”

The deal would upgrade EDM, a hydro-plant fired by Chikamba Dam, from a stand-by facility to a commercial project and rescue the operations of Allied Timbers, The Wattle Company of Zimbabwe, Border Timbers and other major timber producers located around Zimbabwe’s eastern border with Mozambique.

Miners have also struck a similar deal with government and Zesa to import electricity directly from Mozambique’s Hidroelectrica De Cahora Bassa (HCB) and power their operations through ZETDC’s transmission and distribution network.
“It’s a medium-term plan,” Josh Sachikonye, RioZim CEO, said recently, revealing a majority of mining corporations in Zimbabwe strongly backed the arrangement, which would reduce their exposure to Zesa.

Caledonia Mine and a few other resources firms have even diversified to high-voltage generators to act as a standby source of power.

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