via Power situation to improve: Mavhaire 17 November 2013 Sunday Mail
Energy and Power Development Minister Cde Dzikamai Mavhaire has his plate full as the country’s power challenges persist. The perennial electricity shortages have left businesses in a fix while households have to rely on other forms of energy such as gas and paraffin. Our Reporter Tinashe Farawo (TF) last week spoke to Cde Mavhaire about these and other issues. Read on . . .
TF: Minister, which areas do you think need urgent attention in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development?
Minister Mavhaire: The areas which need urgent attention in this ministry are energy conservation, regaining lost generating capacity in respect of existing thermal power stations and reducing transmission and distribution losses. We are also embarking on new non-renewable and renewable power projects, and enhancing the country’s fuel stocks.
TF: The country’s new economic blueprint, Zim Asset, has come up with some short-term targets, what are some of the targets that are within your ministry’s reach by 2015?
Minister Mavhaire: The low-hanging fruits in the energy sector relate to the public education in respect of energy conservation, we need to increase awareness; refurbishing of existing power stations; repowering the three small thermal power stations and we want to reduce power losses in the grid. It is important to realise that among the quick-wins in Zim Asset we want to improve the country’s fuel stocks, installing a temporary peaking power plant and implementing renewable energy projects and programmes . . . all these we are positive can be achieved in the short term.
TF: When can the nation expect to start using power generated at the Chisumbanje ethanol plant?
Minister Mavhaire: The Chisumbanje Ethanol plant uses a significant part of the power it generates. The 4 megawatts surplus that it does not use is what is fed in the national grid. This is already happening. Not all the 18 megawatts that it generates is fed into the grid. The bulk is currently used in the plant. As the plant generates more power, it will be necessary to upgrade the lines. This project is already being actively discussed between the Zimbabwe Power Company and Green Fuels.
TF: The Rural Electrification Agency (Rea) recently signed a deal aimed at improving the use of solar energy in the country. What is the status of this deal?
Minister Mavhaire: The Rural Electrification Agency is already very active in the solar energy sub-sector in terms of lighting, water heating, water pumping, etc, using solar. I think Rea can avail you more details as to who they are working with and which projects have they embarked on.
TF: There has been talk that all Government buildings will be solar powered, when can we expect to start seeing this happening?
Minister Mavhaire: The powering of Government buildings with solar should not be seen as an event. It can only be a process.
Remote Government institutions are already using solar as their source of power. All new tollgates are solar powered. Water heating at Harare Institute of Technology as well as at the United Bulawayo Hospitals is now based on solar. Clearly, a start has been made and I am sure progress has been made.
TF: The use of alternative energy has been topical for a long time, how strong is the drive and what measures have you put in place to encourage the use of alternative energy?
Minister Mavhaire: Government has already embarked on renewable energy programmes like solar, biogas and small hydro. As a Government we all know that we are facing challenges in terms of resources and, as a result, these resource limitations are militating against more ambitious national renewable energy programmes in the country.
TF: What effect will the disturbances in Mozambique have on the country’s fuel supply situation since most of our fuel comes through there?
Minister Mavhaire: The bulk of the country’s fuel is now coming through the pipeline. The mandate of our ministry does not extend to security matters – please note!
TF: Zim Asset talks about the construction of another pipeline from the port of Beira to Harare and negotiations are expected to start soon. Who is Government’s investing partner for this project?
Minister Mavhaire: The second pipeline can only be a bilateral project involving the two sister republics of Mozambique and Zimbabwe. As the project unfolds, appropriate information shall be availed.
For a start, the two republics must agree. Arrangements for such an agreement are already in motion.
TF: Independent power producers wish to generate more than 4 000 MW of electricity, what is the position regarding that and what challenges are they facing?
Minister Mavhaire: Zimbabwe’s current peak power demand stands at 2 200 MW. Clearly, if 4 000MW were produced today, there would be no effective and viable internal market for such power. Independent Power Producer (IPP) projects have to be viewed in this context — as must all the other power projects. In this regard, small IPP projects are already being implemented. Over time, we should see more IPP projects seeing the light of day.
The large projects are certainly complex and require appreciable planning and financial investments running into hundreds of millions of dollars. Please note that it is too early to condemn IPPs yet.
TF: In your view, do you think the power tariffs that are being charged are competitive?
Minister Mavhaire: The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) has just completed an Energy Cost of Supply study, which, in the main, concludes that Zimbabwe’s current power tariff is just about right. Granted, this is a complex debate which should be placed on Zera’s doorstep. Tariffs the world over are on cost recovery. We dare not operate differently.
TF: In his legislative agenda the President spoke about the expansion of Kariba South and Hwange power stations which are expected to produce nearly 1 000MW. Has work started on those projects? If so, when are the contractors expected to complete the work?
Minister Mavhaire: Work in respect of the 300MW Kariba South Expansion Project should commence in the New Year. Contract negotiations in respect of the 600MW Hwange Power Station Expansion are still ongoing. Power projects take long to tender, design and implement. These are four- to five-year projects. This is a universal position.
TF: How much does the country still owe the Mozambican power utility?
Minister Mavhaire: Whereas we have cleared the arrears we had with Hydro Cabora Bassa (HCB), we naturally owe them current bills whose magnitude is dependent on how much power we will have imported from HCB.
TF: What is Government’s position on the cancellation of electricity bills by Zesa?
Minister Mavhaire: All customers must honour their bills. The cancellation of electricity bills only brings temporary relief to customers whilst denying financial resources to the utility. As a nation, we must develop a culture of paying our way in terms of honouring all our bills, electricity included. After all, it costs money to generate, transmit, distribute electricity and even produce the electricity bills. If consumers do not meet these costs, who shall?
TF: How has the project to install pre-paid electricity meters progressed?
Minister Mavhaire: To date, ZETDC has installed over 320 000 pre-paid meters. This is very much work in progress. The initial target was 500 000 pre-paid meters. Zim Asset has set a new target of 800 000 by the end of 2014. Given ZETDC’s experience to date, this should be achievable.
The Batoka Hydro Power Project is an important Zambia-Zimbabwe bilateral project which shall be implemented by the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA).
Preliminary work and study reviews have already started with the financial support of the World Bank through a US$6 million grant to ZRA. The other power projects shall happen in due course.
What is critical, going forward, is that power generation should ideally always keep ahead of effective demand for power. That is the critical path we intend to follow — as an absolute minimum. We have every intention of working hard towards this end.
TF: Minister, thank you for your time.
Minister Mavhaire: My pleasure.