THE Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) on Tuesday announced that it had surpassed electricity generation target after reaching a total of 2 203GWh, enough to meet local demand, but consumers are not celebrating.
Punishing power cuts are the order of the day.
Zimbabwe’s story of power cuts is not new. It dates back to the late former President Robert Mugabe’s days when the country would go for days on end without electricity.
There are two major sources of power in the country: Kariba hydro-power plant and the Hwange thermal power station. The formers’ ability to produce enough from its installed capacity of just over I 600MW is often hampered by low water levels and the latter suffers from constant breakdowns.
The country has enormous potential for electricity generation from a range of renewable sources such as hydro, solar and biomass.
However, at present, only a fraction of the energy potential is being exploited.
The country’s population is also growing rapidly; from just over 7,4 million in 1980 to the present estimated 15 million people, and there is an increased demand for energy but there is little corresponding growth in energy generation.
Reports suggest that the country has potential for 1 000MW from biomass, geothermal and wind and while the latter may not be significant, it can be used for other processes to ease the power cuts.
However, there is no investment on that front.
In addition, the country has natural gas reserves but no sustained efforts are being made to exploit these energy sources.
In the past five years, the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) has licensed over 100 small IPP projects with a capacity to produce around 1 300MW, but most of them suffered stillbirth.
One such project is the US$183 million Gwanda Solar Project awarded to controversial businessman Wicknell Chivayo. The contract was signed in 2015.
Zesa executive chairperson, Sydney Gata said the country would continue to face electricity generation problems because authorities are failing to follow simple project development phases like conducting feasibility studies.
“Quite a number of these (electricity generation projects) were white elephants at birth. They were born deformed,” Gata told editors in October during a tour of the Hwange expansion project.
Gata cited the 120MW Mutare peaking power station and 100MW Dema diesel power plant built in 2016 by Sakunda Holdings. The Dema project was abandoned after realisation that using diesel to generate electricity was costly.
Zimbabweans deserve better.