The Sunday Mail
THE commissioning of the Kariba South Power Station extension project last week, will save the country the much-needed foreign currency and more importantly, reassure new investors that agreed projects can be completed within set time-frames, analysts have said.
Crucially, the 300MW being fed into the grid would considerably reduce load shedding across the country.
Kariba South, which had an installed capacity of 750MW, has now added two units of 150MW each to push total capacity to 1 050MW.
President Mnangagwa commissioned the project, which was expanded to the tune of US$533 million, by Chinese firm Sino Hydro.
Industrialists and energy experts told The Sunday Mail Business last week that the Kariba South project will also spur capacity utilisation in the manufacturing sector, particularly at a time when investors are proposing to start mega projects that demand more electricity.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) immediate past president Mr Davison Norupiri said the addition of 300MW to the grid was most welcome.
“It basically means that we are going to cut our electricity import bill and consequently save the much-needed foreign currency,” said Mr Norupiri.
“It also means our load in the grid would be improved and even if we fail to pay for power imports, we have cover.
“We are happy as industry that Government continues to invest in energy infrastructure and this is a good investment considering that more investors are coming to seek investment opportunities in the country.”
Zimbabwe Energy Council (ZEC) director Mr Panganayi Sithole said the completion of the Kariba South project would “go a long way” in alleviating power shortages in the country.
“The country has been producing less power than it was consuming so the coming in of Kariba would help reduce load shedding.
“Secondly, and most importantly, the commissioning of Kariba means we are going to save the foreign currency we have been using to import electricity. Remember we have been importing anything between 300MW and 450MW per day.
“This project is also important in that it proves beyond doubt that Zimbabwe is open for business and this would boost the confidence of other investors that when a project is started in Zimbabwe, it will be concluded,” said Mr Sithole.
ZEC is a local energy lobby group that engages both Government and the private sector on matters affecting power generation.
When the Kariba project started three years ago, it was announced that it would be completed in March 2018 and the deadline has been met.
The first unit went live on December 24 last year, feeding 150MW into the grid. The last unit was ready early in March before commissioning last week.
Zimbabwe’s national daily power demand is 1 600MW but average internal generation capacity is about 1 200MW.
This creates a supply deficit of about 400MW, which is met through imports from Eskom of South Africa and Mozambique’s Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB).
But given that some electricity consumers such as farmers are not yet on the pre-paid system, Zesa is unable to collect revenue for all the power used, making it difficult for the power utility to timeously pay for imports.
This has resulted in the regional power utilities occasionally threaten to cut supplies to Zimbabwe.
President Mnangagwa conceded that the 300MW from Kariba South would “significantly reduce the power supply deficit and positively impact on our national energy import bill”.
More power projects loom
As more investors stampede to explore opportunities in the country, experts say there is need for more power projects to ensure reliable supply of electricity.
Cyprus firm, Karo Resources, which signed a US$4,2 billion platinum deal a fortnight ago, is expected to set up a 600MW thermal power plant in Matabeleland North province.
Karo Resources will use 250MW at its operations, and the balance of 350MW would be channelled to the national grid.
Hwange Thermal Power Station is set to be expanded by Sino Hydro to have two more generators, commonly referred to as Hwange 7 and 8.
The two units will add 300MW each.
About US$1,2 billion would be gobbled by the project.
Independent power projects (IPPs) are expected to feed more electricity to the grid, with 300MW also set to come from three solar projects scheduled for Gwanda, Munyati and Insukamini.
This means ZPC alone would have installed capacity of about 3 000MW.
If the contribution from IPPs is factored in, the country would have generation capacity in excess of 3 500MW.
However, critics say power supply interruptions would remain due to several factors such as coal supply constraints and water shortages to fire hydro power projects.
Already, coal miners such as Makomo Resources and Hwange Colliery Company Limited, are struggling to meet the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC)’s coal demands due to production bottlenecks mainly because of foreign currency shortages.
But Mr Sithole has called for “optimism”, saying there will always be power challenges since every feedstock — coal, solar and hydro — has its own issues.
“Coal is affected by global environmental concerns and locally, the supply situation due to foreign currency shortages.
“Water is also affected by climate while solar is affected by cloud cover. This is why Government in its wisdom, decided to introduce an energy mix covering all of them so that in the absence of one feedstock, the other ensures power generation,” said Mr Sithole.
Nonetheless, Mr Sithole said if there was increased power generation in the absence of high demand from industry, the country will have “false” excess power supply because rural dwellers don’t have adequate electricity infrastructure to evacuate power from Kariba and Hwange.
Energy access in Zimbabwe is titled in favour of urban areas (70 percent) while a measly 30 percent gets power in rural areas.
This creates scope for Government to also focus on assisting ZETDC to transmit power to rural areas.