via Power shortages hold up turn-around, say experts | The Zimbabwean by Farai Mabeza 02.10.13
Zimbabwe experienced an energy shortfall of almost 18 per cent between January and August this year, making an economic turn-around difficult to forecast, say experts.
“Without changes in the energy sector all the economic reforms that are being touted won’t take off,” Innocent Makwiramiti, an economist, told The Zimbabwean in an interview.
The view was shared by another economist, Eric Bloch, who called for private sector involvement in the energy sector to draw Zimbabwe out of uncertainty.
Bloch said the power sector was in critical condition, far beyond the state sector’s ability to handle alone.
“We have to prioritise (the capacity needs of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority) ZESA Holdings. It does not have the necessary capital resources to upgrade and invest in power projects. It has also lost most of its skilled employees,” he said.
“Private sector involvement in alternative power generation is imperative. A country like Zimbabwe should be heavily involved in solar power generation projects because of the abundant sunshine,” he said.
An analysis of the country’s power supply base, published in a report from the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), shows that Kariba remains the main source with 37.28 per cent, followed by Hwange with 28.67 per cent, Munyati at 1.44 per cent, Bulawayo 1.24 per cent, and Harare a mere 0.46 per cent. That left the remaining imported energy at 13.22 per cent of total supplies.
Energy, a key ingredient for business development, is still scarce and Zimbabwe is nowhere near solving its power deficit because of a weak economy and aging plant and machinery.
Proposed power generating projects are at different stages of implementation as the country gropes in the dark for a lasting solution. With 11 projects still on the drawing board, only the Kariba South Extension plan has inched forward and promises 300 megawatts for the national grid. The new Kariba plan, however, requires $400 million to take off.
According to ZPC, the design review of the project is in progress alongside work on the finances. Technical and funding negotiations for the construction of the additional two 300-megawatt generators at Hwange are also said to be underway.
Another long-standing initiative is the Batoka Gorge project for four 200 megawatt power generators in the next six years. This massive scheme along the Zambezi River is projected to cost $2.2bn.
Makwiramiti said the low capacity of the power generation sector made nonsense the possibility of a quick economic recovery. “There is need for investment in projects such as the Batoka Gorge. We should also use energy from the sun,” he said. “There are a lot of projects that can be implemented by the private sector in the form of public private partnerships.”
Work on Batoka Gorge has yet to pass the bidding stages for a comprehensive environmental and social impact assessment and an engineering feasibility study.
Other proposed projects are the Gairezi hydropower station in Nyanga; an extension of the generation life cycle at Hwange; the upgrading of Deka pipeline; repowering schemes at Harare, Munyati and Bulawayo power Stations, and a coal-bed methane project in Matabeleland North.
Zimbabwe recently tendered a $400m solar power project for Gwanda, Plumtree, Munyati and Zvishavane areas as a short-term measure.