Government will this week release US$5 million for the refurbishment of one of the two largest units at Hwange Power Station (HPS) as part of contingency measures to ease the current power shortages.
In addition, negotiations with South African power utility Eskom and Mozambique’s Hydro Electrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB) for a debt clearance plan and additional power imports are underway.
Refurbishment of Unit 6 at HPS, which is expected to take up to two months, will unlock an additional 170 megawatts to augment generation.
The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) has had to cut back generation at Kariba South because of reduced inflows of water. But if HPC was operating at full throttle and able to handle almost all the base load then Kariba South would be able to handle most of the peak demand with reduced operating times, rather than reduced output, to meet the average requirement.
ZETDC acting managing director Engineer Ralph Katsande told The Sunday Mail that authorities are exploring both demand and supply-side options to address the power shortages.
“The first way we are trying to address this problem is through our own internal generation,” said Eng Katsande.
“We are trying to increase capacity at Hwange, even though it’s an old thermal plant, We are working on refurbishing Unit 6, which requires about US$5 million to repair the turbine, and then we get an additional 170MW.
“That on its own will reduce load-shedding by the same amount.”
It is believed that the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) have since made an undertaking to release the funds “in the next few days”.
Sourcing power from Eskom and HCB is also being considered.
Despite the US$80 million debt owed to the two utilities, Government is negotiating for a payment plan and additional imports.
Eng Katsande said there were plans to source 400MW from South Africa during off-peak periods as the country was also grappling with insufficient power supplies.
“Once we have paid, we expect that we can get extra imports during off-peak.
“And why do we want off-peak? Because we know also Eskom has been load-shedding, but the power we need is that from off-peak because we then can shut down Kariba and conserve water so that it can last us longer,” he said.
There is also a limited amount of power that the country can get from HCB as the company is doing some overhaul at its plant.
Overall, Government expects to come up with a definitive plan this week.
HCB has already offered power to Zimbabwe and Zambia in exchange for further reduced power generation at the Kariba Dam hydro plants.
Cahora Bassa Dam is overflowing following the recent cyclone-induced floods, and authorities in Mozambique have asked Zimbabwe and Zambia – through the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) – to cut down generation and store more water in Kariba Dam, which is upstream of Cahora Bassa on the Zambezi River.
Eng Katsande said: “We are also looking at tapping into the day-ahead market of the Southern African Power Pool where other trading utilities have an excess we can purchase from them.”
Zesa is also looking at demand-side interventions that include requesting large power users to cut down on usage during peak hours.
The utility is presently working with winter cropping communities to ensure that they are not affected by load-shedding.
Separately, Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi told our Bulawayo Bureau yesterday that Government has since constituted a team to engage the South African power utility.
“There is a team that has been formed to engage both Eskom and South Africa Government. They were supposed to go there last week but as you know there were new ministerial appointments in South Africa so they had to wait. They will engage both (SA) government and Eskom,” he said.
He said the team has been instructed to negotiate a payment plan and once agreed that would see Eskom resuming exports to Zimbabwe.
The latest development comes days after Minister Chasi fired the Zesa board led by former Cottco managing director Mr Collins Chihuru for failing to come up with contingencies to deal with the power situation.