By Tendai Sahondo
ZIMBABWE faces a crippling daily power gap of over 1000MW, Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Edington Mazambani has said.
Speaking before a parliamentary portfolio committee on energy and power development, Mazambani said government is exploring various avenues to address the crisis as the country does not have the capacity to import that much power.
“Zimbabwe is currently experiencing a daily power gap of 1090MW owing to the low levels of water in the Kariba dam, which is currently operating at 30% capacity. Our equipment at Hwange is also unreliable as it is always breaking down. However we do not have the adequate foreign currency reserves to bridge the gap with power imports. We are doing what we can to address the crisis,” he said.
Mazambani said power supply is expected to improve in September with the completion of the refurbishment of Hwange Unit 6 power plant expected to add 160MW to the grid. The unit had not been operational since March this year.
He said Hwange power station was assured of sustainable coal supplies after the government paid $20mln directly to suppliers as part of its debt repayment to the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply and Distribution Company (ZETDC). The CE said ZERA is working with ZETDC to make its systems more efficient with the utility expected to zip up all its units into one company.
The country is also expected to start benefiting from Eskom power supplies after conclusion of an arrangement with the foreign utility. Government recently made a $10mln bullet payment to Eskom so as to unlock power imports. Eskom is expected to provide up to 300MW of power depending on availability. Zimbabwe is currently benefiting 50MW from Hydro Cabora Bassa.
Mazambani called on industry and domestic consumers to save power as a virtual power station of 300MW could be realized from this initiative. He said ZERA has also received significant responses from companies interested in installing rooftop solar systems that will feed into the grid.
He said companies that have since been licensed include Econet, Kefalos, the Standards Association of Zimbabwe, Schweppes with Delta understood to be on its way. Licensing is offered to companies willing to generate 100KW; however this will soon be upgraded to 1MW.
The invitation has been extended to the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ), which has a lot of rooftop space at all airports. Mazambani said the same invitation would equally be extended to domestic consumers.
“The installation of Solar is expensive mostly because it encapsulates the storage component, however if domestic consumers are to feed power into the grid, the grid then becomes your storage and you can draw the power from the grid when you need it. We will soon be rolling out this program, we have identified two financial institutions that are willing to partner with home owners in this endeavour,” he said.
Mazambani said government has started reviewing the performance of Independent Power Producers (IPP) in the country with a view to withdrawing licensing from parties that acquired licenses for speculative purposes. It was revealed that some license holders were using the license as bait to woo investors whom they would then charge exorbitant prices for a partnership agreement when the licenses cost a measly $40 000.
Turning to the power tariff increase, Mazambani said the hike was not sustainable but a compromise between affordability and sustainability by ripping out the profit factor, which would have been accrued to government.
He however there was an agreement amongst players in the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) to ensure all utilities adopt cost reflective tariffs, however, Namibia is the only country that has managed to achieve this to date.
Speaking on the increase of fuel in the market, Mazambani said this was due to a change in the duty regime resulting in a 176% duty hike in diesel and a 148% duty hike in petrol. He however said the price was still below the regional average.
The CE confided that there was a crisis in the fuel sector when the duty regime was introduced as players were skeptical of the new arrangement were duty is now applied on a percentage basis as opposed to the previous set up were it was an absolute amount per liter. He said it has since been resolved that ZIMRA will determine the applicable duty on a weekly basis.
The CEO said government is working on the modalities to liberalise the fuel sector enabling some service providers to charge in foreign currency.