• Kariba Hydro-Power Station has exponentially increased its daily electricity generation output by 260 percent from 250 megawatts earlier this year to 800 megawatts in response to the burgeoning water inflows into the vast Lake
  • Smaller thermal stations remain the feeble link due to obsolete equipment with Bulawayo at naught while Munyati and Harare are inconsistently generating below 20 megawatts
  • The synchronisation of Hwange Unit 8 tomorrow, will augment the combined output from Unit 7 and 8 to 600 megawatts

Harare - As we eagerly anticipate the synchronisation of Hwange Unit 8 tomorrow, which will augment the
combined output from Unit 7 and 8 to 600 megawatts, the Kariba Hydro-Power Station has
exponentially increased its daily electricity generation output by 260 percent from 250 megawatts
earlier this year to 800 megawatts in response to the burgeoning water inflows into the vast Lake
Kariba. Downpours continue to deluge the expansive Zambezi River basin, and expectations are
positive that the amelioration in water levels will facilitate the gargantuan hydro-power station to
generate more power commensurate with its installed capacity of 1050 megawatts.

The exponential upsurge in output at Kariba is immensely positive for the country, however, it arises
at a juncture when the Hwange Thermal Power Station has curtailed output this week. The
diminished output is attributable to Hwange Unit 7 still undergoing commissioning tests, and
presently, the engineers have disengaged the unit from the grid for the evaluation of all systems in
preparation for the final phase of commissioning. The quotidian output from Hwange has
plummeted from as high as 709 megawatts recorded at the beginning of April to circa 220
megawatts last week.

It appears that the engineers capitalized on the upswing in electricity in Kariba to then disengage
Hwange Unit 7 from the grid as the aggregate output has consistently hovered above 1000
megawatts even though Unit 7 has been detached from the grid. This denotes that electricity
generation is still functioning at just below half the national peak demand which approximates 2200
megawatts. Had Hwange Unit 7 remained on the grid, ZPC would have been generating 71% of peak
demand, and this would signify that annexing the additional 300 megawatts from Hwange Unit 8
later this year would propel electricity generation to 84% against peak demand.

The country is importing between 300- 450 megawatts from the Southern Africa Power
Pool encompassing Zesco, Excom, Hydro Cabora Bassa and EDM of Mozambique. Simultaneously,
due to contractual stipulations, 80 megawatts are exported to Namibia. When aggregated, available
supplies range between 1 550 to 1 650 megawatts presently. However, this implies that if the two
units in Hwange add 600 megawatts to the grid, that will offset the peak demand of 2200 megawatts
as electricity production will be anticipated to range from 2050 megawatts to 2250 megawatts.
According to ZESA, the power company is inundated with new applications amounting to 2,300
megawatts, which would engender a power shortfall in the short to medium-term plans.
“We have applications totalling 2,300 by 2025 in terms of power requirements sitting before us.”
This then suggests that efforts by the power utility to neutralize national power demand will be
absorbed as soon as Hwange Unit 8 is on the grid, and electricity challenges will continue to haunt
the economy as countless businesses will continue to be afflicted by operating expenses that will
further enervate firms’ income statements.

At this juncture, it is only efficacious for any enterprise in the country to explore solar as an
alternative to power operations as the probabilities for a slowdown in power cuts are non-existent.
Mining corporations and companies listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange have either commenced

or are in the process of initiating solar projects and this is what firms in the country need to
contemplate in order to arm businesses against power cuts in the future.
At the end of April when Hwange transiently surged to levels in excess of 500 megawatts,
the Minister of Energy, Soda Zhemu, announced that the synchronisation of Unit 8 to the grid will
commence on the 16th of May and Hwange Unit 7 will be commercially available in June. The
engineers undertaking the project anticipate that annexing Hwange Unit 8 will require less time as
they will take into account the lessons gleaned from Unit 7.

“I am delighted to proclaim that on 16 May, we will witness the synchronisation of Unit 8 and its
connection to the grid,”

“In June, we will have Unit 7 operating commercially,” Minister Soda Zhemu stated.

Subsequent to the commissioning of the two units, ZPC will embark upon another project of
refurbishing the existing six units that were commissioned in the 1980s to reinstate their capacity to
980 megawatts. Presently, they function at half capacity.

Smaller thermal stations remain the feeble link due to obsolete equipment with Bulawayo at naught
while Munyati and Harare are inconsistently generating below 20 megawatts. The Zimbabwe Power
Company is soliciting private sector investors with vast power demands to take over, modernise and
operate its three small thermal power stations in exchange for guaranteed power supplies.

ZPC acting MD Engineer Nobert Matarutse averred:

“What we are focusing on as ZPC, consistent with Zesa policy, is to repurpose the small thermal
power plants so that we can allure other investors to come in and assume control of the stations
through some form of agreements.”

He said they were already engaging several enterprises but could not pledge a timeline when the
negotiations would be finalised nor the figures entailed.

Output from the Kariba Power Station, which averaged above 700 megawatts and anchored
domestic supplies for the better part of 2022, was abruptly diminished to below 300 megawatts in
November when water levels dwindled to unsustainable levels – plunging the country into a dire
supply deficit.

However, the latest update from the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), which administers water at
Kariba on behalf of Zimbabwe and Zambia, indicates that the lake level has been steadily rising due
to higher inflows on the mainstream Zambezi River compared to outflows, closing the period under
review at 479.08m (25.13% usable storage) on 8th May 2023, compared to 479.71m (29.71% usable
storage) recorded on the same date last year. The lake levels are anticipated to continue rising until
June or July.
Last year, the ZRA directed ZPC to shut down the station until early this year after it exceeded its
water ration with just 63cm of water above the intake level at the lake remaining after it utilized 23,
89 billion cubic metres of water, which was 1,39 billion cubic metres more than its allocated 22,50
billion cubic metres for the year 2022. The Government, nonetheless, said the station would not
completely shut down but instead would continue generating the minimal power that it was capable
of producing.

Earlier this year, President Mnangagwa said power challenges would be dramatically mitigated as his
Government was working on the ‘optimal and reliable’ power supply. He said upgrading and

expanding the Hwange Thermal Power Station was one of the unambiguous testimonies that the
future of the country's power situation was bright.

In the last quarter of 2022, the country witnessed inordinate power outages that adversely impacted
business operations and resulted in heavy dependence on generators and other alternative power
sources, thereby compromising the ease of doing business and escalating operational costs.
A number of Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) listed companies are also sanguine about growth and
profitability due to improvement in energy supply and decent rainfall received that will boost the
agricultural sector.

Although firms are optimistic about the improvement of power supply, the increase in mining
companies requesting to join the grid can outpace the progress made by ZPC, and the fact that the
outside world now only wants to invest in clean energy makes it challenging for the country since we
also heavily rely on coal.

The Zimbabwe Power Company has also announced that 120MW of electricity will be ringfenced to
guarantee uninterrupted power supply to wheat farmers this coming winter. ZPC said it was
cognizant of the importance of power supply towards wheat production; hence, the need to ensure
farmers have adequate power to enable them to irrigate the crop and boost production in line with
the aspirations of the National Development Strategy and Vision 2030.

Wheat production increased from 300,000 tonnes in 2021 to 375,000 tonnes in 2022, representing a
25 percent increase against a national annual requirement of 360,000 tonnes leaving a surplus of
over 15,000t. The production figures for last year were the highest since 1962 when wheat was first
grown in Zimbabwe.

In conclusion, businesses should expect power outages to ease, not in the current financial year but
in 2024; however, with many firms applying to be added to the grid, electricity production will again
be less than half of the peak production unless the government works on initiatives to increase
electricity generation through clean energy by 2025.

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