No funding for power imports: Minister

Zhemu Soda

ZIMBABWE could be headed for darker days as Energy and Power Development minister Zhemu Soda yesterday revealed that there was no immediate funding to ease power outages.

Zhemu revealed this after hopes to import more power from Zambia were dampened with the neighbouring country introducing a six-hour daily load-shedding regime starting on December 15.

“The government is making an intervention. This is a crisis situation and we hope through that intervention, funding will be available to apply for the additional capacity which we are looking forward to getting from our neighbours,” Zhemu told journalists in Harare yesterday.

Currently, Zimbabwe is importing a combined 250 megawatts (MW) from South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique.

Additional negotiations are ongoing, with 150MW expected from Mozambique, he said.

The country was plunged into an energy crisis after the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) last week ordered the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) to suspend operations at the Kariba South Hydro Power Station due to low water levels in the lake.

Owing to low levels in the Kariba Dam, Zimbabwe is battling a serious power crisis that has resulted in the power utility increasing its load-shedding lasting several hours

As of November 28, 2022, water levels at Kariba Dam stood at 476,09m above sea level, representing only 4,12% of usable water storage for power generation, according to the Zambian authorities.

The ZRA cut ZPC’s power generation capacity to 300MW down from 600MW, while  the Zambia Electricity Supply Company will reduce generation to a maximum of 800 megawatts until further review.

“The ministry urges all consumers to reduce load by employing energy conservation and efficiency measures. Lights must be switched off in all offices at night and other measures like rightsizing of equipment, use of energy savers,” Zhemu said.

“Over and above the above measures, government is pursuing a medium to long-term plan to meet the power needs of the country. The government is supporting the acceleration of implementation of renewable energy projects by independent power producers.

“Government has identified some solar sites where it will fast-track implementation and pre-feasibility studies have already been done. It must be noted that the situation at Kariba is mainly due to natural causes and the ministry is doing all in its power to avert the situation.

“The Zimbabwean government has turned to neighbouring countries seeking to increase imports from the region and replace 300MW lost through restrictions at Kariba.

Yesterday, Zambia’s Energy minister Peter Kapala issued a ministerial statement warning of a daily six-hour load-shedding regime in that country.

“Zesco will implement a load management regime aimed at rationing power generation at the Kariba Complex to avoid a complete shutdown,” Kapala said.

“This will be done with the view to minimise the impact on key economic sectors as well as preservation of the integrity of generation units at the Kariba Complex. We anticipate that based on the water levels, this will translate into a load management regime starting on December 15, 2022 of up to a maximum of six hours daily until the water levels improve.”

Zimbabwe had hoped to plug the supply gap with additional power imports from Zambia. Zambia achieved an electricity surplus of 1 200MW.

However, the latest developments mean continued power imports from Zambia is no longer guaranteed.

“If there is no plan that can deliver power, it will be difficult for this season, our busiest season, this time of the year,” Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Kurai Matsheza said.

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