The worsening electricity shortage in Zimbabwe now merits a robust response from the government to save the floundering economy and stop the suffering citizens have to endure because of rolling power cuts.
In yet another sign that the situation is getting out of hand, the country’s second largest city Bulawayo announced on Friday that it would be without water supply for 48 hours due to intermittent power outages.
Council said the water cuts were “prompted by continued power cuts” that have made it difficult for the local authority to replenish its reservoirs.
The water shortages would be an additional headache for the city’s residents and businesses, who for several weeks have been experiencing regular power cuts.
Zimbabwe’s now perennial electricity shortages worsened a few months ago due to persistent breakdowns at the Hwange Power Station, the country’s largest source of thermal power.
The Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) is also unable to generate electricity at full capacity at Kariba Dam due to on-going rehabilitation works at the lake.
ZPC was producing 1 095 megawatts of electricity on Friday against a demand of 1 700 megawatts.
Zimbabwe’s power woes have been worsened by the fact that it cannot import electricity from traditional sources such as South Africa and Zambia because the two countries are also currently experiencing shortages.
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The country also owes Mozambique millions of dollars for power imports.
Zimbabwe has been facing power shortages for well over a decade and a decisive government would have addressed the crisis by now.
One of the reasons Zimbabwe is in this situation is because the government has not been proactive in encouraging investment in the energy sector by private players.
There are a lot of independent power producers (IPPs) that stepped forward to invest in the energy sector, but most of the projects have not taken off because of the absence of an environment that would guarantee sustainability.
Some of the IPPs encountered serious problems because of Zimbabwe’s currency conundrum as Zesa insists on paying them in local currency, which leaves the investors unable to service foreign loans and to maintain their grids since most of the things they require are imported.
The thermal stations in Munyati, Harare and Bulawayo are operating at way below their designed capacity because of lack of maintenance over the years, with some not even operational.
It is high time the government took stock of what is happening in the energy sector with the aim of coming up with lasting solutions that should include ensuring that the country is self-sufficient when it comes to electricity generation.
Anything short of that would spell doom for the economic prospects of this country.