Let there be light … and Hwange Units 7, 8 were born
Even at a personal level, everyone can now feel the impact — electricity availability has drastically improved to the extent that load shedding is now becoming a thing of the past.
Of course, there may be supply disruption here and there due to some unforeseen circumstances, but this has become rare and the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) usually explains the reasons behind such.
But the whole country has now been lit up, thanks to President Mnangagwa’s ingenuity when he made sure the expansion of Hwange Thermal Power Station came into effect.
This resulted in the construction of Hwange Unit 7 and 8, adding more than 600MW to the national grid, in the process solving the power shortages that had been hounding the nation for some time.
The additional 600MW have made changes felt across the country, although the country needs more power to be secure, considering the plethora of investments in mining and other industries that are coming up.
The improvement in electricity generation has brought confidence for long-term planning in various sectors of the economy that had been affected by the shortages.
Hwange Unit 7 and 8 have indeed changed the face of the country in terms of power supplies.
The country invested US$1,4 billion in the expansion of Hwange Power Station, where Units 7 and 8 were constructed.
The fact that in most cases there is no load shedding at all, clearly indicates the positive impact of the improved power generation capacity.
All Zimbabweans who have been grappling with power outages, sometimes going for hours on end in darkness, are the beneficiaries of this new status.
In terms of the economic sectors, the major beneficiaries are in industry, agriculture and mining, which have been given a new lease of life through the improved power generation.
Socio-economic spin-offs have also been accrued, all for the common good.
At least 4 600 job opportunities were created for locals by the project, with many others benefiting in material supplies.
Speaking at an energy conference in Victoria Falls recently, Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe president Mr Colin Chibafa commended the Government for creating “an enabling and conducive environment that has seen a number of positive developments in the mining industry”.
The said availability of electricity had culminated in the commissioning of new mines across key sectors of gold, coal and lithium, among other key sub-sectors of the mining industry.
Zimbabwe Platinum Mines (ZIMPLATS) said it posted a four percent year-on-year growth in mining volumes inspired by improved power availability following the work at Hwange.
“Mined volumes increased by four percent from the prior comparable quarter, which was negatively impacted by poor equipment availability at Mupfuti Mine,” said the company.
“Ore milled increased by 3 percent from the prior quarter to 1,94 million tonnes and benefited from the increase in operating days and improved availability of power during the period.”
In the agricultural sector, the impact of the availability of power was felt during the winter wheat season this year which ran smoothly as irrigation equipment was kept running.
This season’s planted area surpassed the set target of 90 000 by 192 hectares and total wheat production is set to eclipse last year’s 375 000 tonnes as over 420 000 tonnes are anticipated.
Recent data collected by country satellite system, ZimSat-1 using the multi-temporal satellite image collection technique on harvesting show that not less than 415 000 tonnes of wheat will be produced.
Speaking at the Kwekwe Agricultural Show recently, acting Midlands provincial director for agriculture extension and rural development, Mrs Medlinah Magwenzi, said uninterrupted power supply was a key enabler for winter wheat records this season.
“If anything, we are grateful to ZESA for uninterrupted power supply,” she said. “This means our farmers can now water their crop without hindrances and I am sure that this will boost our yield come harvest time.”
Irrigation schemes have been established in various parts of the country, where villagers are benefiting from constant power supplies.
For the local community in Hwange, the coming in of Hwange 7 and 8 was a game changer.
Greater Whange Residents Trust coordinator, Mr Fidelis Chima said: “The thermal power station expansion project is a huge development that has created thousands of jobs for locals and improved availability of electricity across the country.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo said his province was a major beneficiary of the Second Republic’s major projects, including the expansion of Hwange Thermal Power Station.
“This is a huge project, which has immense ripple effects on all sectors of the economy and Matabeleland North is proud to be the host of such big projects.
“There are huge benefits coming through various projects by the Second Republic in all sectors,” he said.
“With this commissioning, there will be no load shedding and even agriculture production will increase while clinics that have been built by this Government will also get connected to the grid.”
Energy and Power Development Permanent Secretary Dr Gloria Magombo is on record saying Zimbabwe is steadily moving towards energy sufficiency and will eventually export excess power to other countries.
In terms of industries, some companies that had shortened shifts due to unavailability of power are now back in full swing.
Small to medium enterprises owners who had resorted to working late at night when electricity became available, are now doing their job normally.
President Mnangagwa, officially commissioned the Hwange Thermal Power Station Units 7 and 8 Expansion Project in August.
The project will help the Second Republic achieve its targets for the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) and Vision 2030, meant to turn the country into an upper middle income economy.
The project scope involved a power plant, which entailed the installation of two electricity generating units, each having a net output of 300MW, and the construction of two new 400kV substations (330kV Sherwood B and 400/330 kV Hwange B Substation) a 400kV 310km transmission line from Hwange to Insukamini in Bulawayo.
Another 40km long transmission line has been established from Insukamini to Marvel in Bulawayo for the delivering of power. This effectively leaves the Hwange Thermal Power station complex (Units 1-8) with an installed generation capacity of 1 520MW.
Speaking at the commissioning of the project in August, President Mnangagwa said: “Energy is a critical enabler for our industrialisation and modernisation. As Sadc there is a deficit of nearly 6 000 to 7 000MW and whichever country can produce excess power there is a market. So we, as the Second Republic, will leapfrog to satisfy that deficit.”
Zimbabwe’s maximum electricity demand is 1 750MW, while the average internal supply stands at 1 500MW, including imports from regional utilities.
The deficit of up to 250MW means there will be load shedding during peak hours or demand side management.