Drastic measures to ease power cuts

Samuel Undenge

Samuel Undenge

Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
Major mining companies and other huge electricity consumers will have to reduce consumption by up to 25 percent, while security cantonments have been asked to load-shed non-critical areas as part of measures adopted by Government to reduce massive power cuts being experienced countrywide.

The measures were announced by Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Samuel Undenge in the National Assembly yesterday when briefing parliamentarians on the power situation.

It also emerged that Sable Chemicals owed the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company $150 million in unpaid bills.

“Noting that there are some large users of power such as Mimosa, Unki, Zimplats, Zimasco, Zim Alloys and Afrochine; these are to be asked by ZETDC to drop load by up to 25 percent on the basis of existing contracts.

“It would be up to these large power users to decide on which areas of their operations to load-shed. This is expected to yield 25MW,” Dr Undenge said.

“Security cantonments (ZNA and ZRP) shall be requested to voluntarily load shed non-critical and residential loads as army and police institutions so as to share the burden.”

Dr Undenge said generation at the small thermal power stations in Harare, Munyati and Bulawayo would also be increased to augment supplies from Kariba Hydro Power Station.

He said 40 MW being consumed by Sable Chemicals that manufacture ammonium nitrate fertiliser would be diverted to residential areas.

“The 40 MW currently being availed to Sable Chemicals will be diverted to residential areas in order to reduce quantum of power loads being shed. This alone would reduce Harare’s load shedding to about six hours. It must be noted that the Sable Chemicals power account now stands at $150 million in debt. This is a burden which ZETDC is currently carrying on its own at a time when their revenues are expected to dwindle.

“It is conceded that local production of ammonium nitrate would stop as a result of this action. The product would have to be imported,” he said.

Minister Undenge said load-shedding would also be introduced in central business districts of Harare and Bulawayo as way of saving electricity and reduce the duration residents go without electricity.

Minister Undenge said Government had also identified quick win medium term projects that will add 340 MW to the national grid.

“These include the repowering of the Bulawayo thermal station where the Government of Zimbabwe has already secured a line of credit valued at $87 million from the Government of India. The repowering works will add 60MW into the grid and will take 24 months. The Harare repowering project will cost $70,2 million with 85 percent of the cost promised by India Exim Bank. The project will take 24 months to complete and will add 90 MW to the grid,” he said.

He added that adjudication of tenders to refurbish Munyati Power Station was being done and an additional 70 MW expected to be added to the grid once the works are completed.

“Government has also embarked on the 120 MW Mutare Emergency/Peaking Plant running on diesel and gas with the project a little over $92 million. The tender was won by Helcraw Electrical and will take 18 months to complete,” Dr Undenge said.

He added that financial closure for the extension of Hwange Thermal Power station was expected before year end while feasibility studies for the Batoka Hydro Power Plant would be finalised.

The minister also encouraged private sector involvement in the generation of electricity as another way of resolving the shortages.

Most parts of the country have been going for up to 18 hours without electricity following the reduction of generation capacity at Kariba Power Station from 750 MW to 475 MW.

The reduction was necessitated by the declining water levels in Kariba Dam.

Dr Undenge also told the parliamentarians that Government had been advised of the declining water levels by the Zambezi River Authority that manages Kariba Dam on behalf of Zambia and Zimbabwe in April but decided against reducing generation to enable farmers to irrigate their winter crops.

“As we were approaching the high demand winter period, we took a conscious decision to run the plant at full capacity in winter and then reduce the power output after this period so as not to drastically disrupt the winter crop. Scheduled maintenance works at Hwange was also suspended during winter. Load shedding was therefore minimum in winter. The prolonging of scheduled maintenance at Hwange, however, came at a cost which we are now experiencing,” Dr Undenge said.

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