REPORTS that Zimbabwe is set to experience a crippling energy crisis, due to suppressed power supplies, a move that effectively condemns the failing economy, should serve as a wake-up call to government to expedite the country’s power generation projects.
The sudden jump between the increased load-shedding stages will no doubt make it difficult for businesses to plan ahead, thereby undermining their productivity.
Evidently, there is no immediate solution to the electricity deficit Zimbabwe, Zambia and the entire southern African region is facing apart from more investment in the energy sector.
The quickest way to solve the power deficit is to promote trade in the energy sector across the southern African region. Regrettably, there is less surplus of power in the Southern African Power Pool, to which Zimbabwe belongs, to allow for significant trade among member countries because most southern African nations are experiencing power shortages.
We are aware that the power outages are not unique to Zimbabwe, as other countries are experiencing similar challenges, but government should have forseen this eventuality given climate change is one of the causes of power deficits in Africa, arising from less rainfall due to environmental degradation.
We are also mindful of the fact that the shortage of electricity will be with us for a very long while.
Zimbabwe appears to be secretive over the magnitude of the power crisis, but Zambia has indicated that the Kariba Power Station could be shut prematurely due to the impending lack of water for electricity generation.
This demonstrates the seriousness of the power crisis in both Zimbabwe and Zambia.
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Although the power deficit cannot be solved by an individual country, there is need for Zimbabwe to focus on its power generation projects, some of which are currently lying idle.
The only other option to the electricity deficit could be to wait for more rainfall or build more power plants.
So for government, through Zesa Holdings, to advise the public that there will be planned maintenance between this month and January next year, is unfortunate to say the least.
We believe that Zesa projects — running at an estimated cost of $5 billion — could generate 3 500 megawatts of power, which will go a long way in alleviating the power deficit in the country.
Given the power deficit, it makes sense that these projects are prioritised, as they would ensure greater provision of power, both for industrial and domestic use.
What is most disturbing is the fact that the country has been lagging behind for years in setting up new electricity generation plants, with the oldest being Hwange Power Station which is 30 years old now.
We also understand that Zesa Holdings is owed close to a billion dollars by customers in unpaid bills, hence this has affected its payments to suppliers.
However, that is no excuse for Zesa to fail to deliver on its mandate because careful planning is required. Because Zesa has failed on almost all fronts, Zimbabweans simply cannot rely on them anymore as the source of energy supply. Major cities such as Harare and Bulawayo must be allowed to take back their power generating stations and take charge of the energy regime.
Also the lack of national leadership on this disaster, which is set to continue in the years to come and which indicates that we are a country in crisis, simply cannot be tolerated, nor afforded.
Energy efficiency, especially the initiatives which shift electricity demand in peak times, is the quickest, cheapest and most beneficial way to address the power crisis over the short-to medium term.
There is need to fundamentally change the view of how we use electricity and where it comes from.