via No end in sight to power woes – NewsDay October 1, 2015
ENERGY and Power Development minister Samuel Undenge yesterday conceded that government had no immediate solution to the current power shortages, saying the on-going power cuts would only ease following implementation of proposed medium-to-long-term intervention measures.
BY OBEY MANAYITI/VENERANDA LANGA
Addressing delegates at the official launch of the government-funded national solar water heating programme in Harare, Undenge said they were currently negotiating for additional power imports from Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique to alleviate the energy crisis.
“I have instructed Zesa to come up with a fair schedule of load-shedding and to ensure that power is evenly distributed. At the same time I am exploring other ways of alleviating the power cuts,” Undenge said, adding they were also resuscitating several thermal power stations so they could feed into the national grid.
He, however, warned the projects would take at least 18 months before the country could draw any benefits from them.
Some of the measures include the repowering of Bulawayo Thermal Station, where the government has already secured an $87 million loan from the government of India. The project will take 24 months to complete, but will only add 60 megawatts (MW) to the national grid on its completion.
Undenge said the Harare repowering project, which will also take 24 months to complete at a cost of $70,2 million secured from India Exim Bank, would add 90MW into the national grid.
He said the Munyati repowering project, expected to provide 70MW, would also take about 24 months to complete.
Undenge said numerous other small-scale hydropower plants were expected to increase power generation as well as private sector independent power producers such as those in Hwange, Gwayi, Binga and Gokwe.
Meanwhile, Undenge yesterday courted the ire of opposition MPs when he walked out of the National Assembly before answering burning questions over the ongoing power cuts.
As Undenge stood to leave the House, MDC-T MPs interjected calling for him to stick around, but Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Mabel Chinomona ruled them out of order and allowed him to go.
Thirty minutes later, the MPs demanded that Undenge be brought back to the House, prompting Chinomona to ask Zanu PF deputy chief whip Anna Rungani to look for him in the members’ lobby.
The MPs then turned the heat on Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa to explain the energy crisis.
Mnangagwa said Undenge could not take sole blame for the crisis as it was caused by dwindling water levels at Kariba Dam.
“Undenge cannot come and give a ministerial statement before we conclude the programmes that we are undertaking. It takes a minimum of four years to have thermal power stations operating. We are now looking at solar energy because it takes six to nine months to get electricity from it.”
The country is currently experiencing its worst power cuts, some lasting up to 24 hours, which are worsened by the routine maintenance at the country’s two largest power plants — Kariba and Hwange.
Power generation is currently around
1 000MW, less than half the peak demand of
2 200MW, forcing local industries to use costly diesel generators to keep operations running while domestic consumers have switched to gas, coal and firewood.