Joseph Madzimure and Charmaine Brown
Government is negotiating with Mozambique for up to 400MW of electricity to continue alleviating power outages facing the country, Energy and Power Development Minister Advocate Fortune Chasi has said.
Zimbabwe is presently getting 50MW from its eastern neighbour, and is keen to access anything between 150MW and 400MW.
“We are actually in the process of engaging Hydro Cahora Bassa of Mozambique for more power imports,” said Minister Chasi in an interview last week. “Mozambique has been providing us with 50MW for quite some time and we hope that their capacity will be improving during the course of this month.”
Zimbabwe started getting 400MW from South African power utility Eskom a fortnight ago, bringing relief to businesses and consumers that had borne the brunt of severe load-shedding.
Minister Chasi said he was confident Zimbabwe would soon get increased power supplies from Mozambique.
“After we meet the authorities there, we will be able to ascertain the levels of power that we will be able to get,” he said. “I am very confident that we will get a significant amount of power.”
Minister Chasi said the relative increase in load-shedding for domestic users in the past few days was occasioned by challenges faced with some generation units at Hwange Thermal Power Station.
“I must admit that there has been a bit of regression over the past few days; that is not a permanent situation,” he said. “It has been due to challenges we faced on a number of units at Hwange.
“They are actively being sorted out. You have heard stories about Stage One, Two, Three and so forth, but we are still on Stage One. We want to continue to improve the availability of power and I want to assure the public that we are working very actively around the clock on the challenges that are at our thermostats.”
Minister Chasi said yesterday that Unit 5 at Hwange Power Station returned to service on Saturday night, adding 160MW to the grid.
“We expect to see improvement in power supply and Unit 6 is set to be opened up for inspections the first week of September for fault diagnostics,” he said. “This follows the recent payment of €490 000 for the inspection.
“Actual repair time is estimated at eight to 12 weeks and its return will make a meaningful difference. Unit 6 will add a further 160MW to the grid, bringing up Hwange power production to 670MW.”
Government wants to get as much power as possible to ensure uninterrupted power supplies, particularly to the manufacturing, mining and agriculture sectors.
Farmers want stable electricity supplies at this point to irrigate their winter wheat crop.
Turning to the power tariff, Minister Chasi it was important to have a viable tariff to lure potential investors to increase power generation.
“We need to interrogate the tariff and continue to improve it so that ZESA continues to recoup sufficient revenue from consumers for it to improve its financial condition and for attracting investment,” he said.
“Anyone who wants to invest in the country must look at the capacity of ZESA to pay them for the investment they would have made and ZESA pays from the consumers.”
Government recently approved a tariff increase, which now sees non-exporting businesses paying an average of 45c/kWh (approximately USc5/kWh) from 9,86c/kWh.
Domestic consumers now pay an average of 27c/kWh (approximately USc3/kWh), which is subsidised, from an average of 9,86c/kWh.
ZESA is also implementing the stepped prepayment tariff for domestic consumers to replace the flat tariff of 14c/KWh, to promote optimal use of power within a calendar month.