• Hwange Unit 7 has been officially integrated into the national power grid
  • Hwange Unit 8 was expected to commence synchronization procedures mid-May
  • Zimbabwe’s power utility faces new applications for 2300MW by 2025

Harare - Zimbabwe’s Hwange Power Station Unit 7 has been officially integrated into the national power grid, adding 300MW of electricity generation capacity. This milestone comes after the power plant successfully completed 168 hours of reliable testing on May 11. Engineers capitalized on increased electricity production from the Kariba hydropower station to disengage Hwange Unit 7 and complete final testing stages.

Hwange Unit 8 was expected to commence synchronization procedures by mid-May, according to Energy and Power Development Minister Soda Zhemu. However, the government’s dates for these milestones continue to slip, as Hwange Unit 7’s integration was also delayed.

Fortunately, rains continue to drench the vast Zambezi River basin, raising hopes that improved water levels will allow the massive Kariba hydropower dam to generate electricity closer to its installed capacity of 1050MW. Kariba’s exponential increase in production is hugely positive and it will be interesting to observe if consistent blackouts persist as Hwange is now expected to generate at least 500MW daily to truly prove the viability of Unit 7.

Zimbabwe is importing 300-450MW from the Southern Africa Power Pool, including Zesco, Excom, Hydro Cabora Bassa, and EDM of Mozambique. Simultaneously, due to contractual obligations, 80MW are exported to Namibia. Total available supply is now 1550-1650MW. If Hwange’s two units add 600MW, supply could meet peak demand of 2200MW, ranging from 2050 to 2250MW.

According to ZESA, Zimbabwe’s power utility faces new applications for 2300MW by 2025, suggesting short to medium-term supply deficit. “We have applications totaling 2300MW in terms of power requirements before us,” ZESA said. Hwange Unit 8's addition may soon be absorbed, and energy challenges will persist, inflicting costs on businesses.

It is prudent for Zimbabwean firms to pursue solar energy to power operations, as slowing blackouts is unlikely. Mining and listed firms have started solar projects, which others should consider to safeguard against outages.

Earlier this year, President Mnangagwa said resolving energy challenges was a priority, citing Hwange expansion. "Upgrading and expanding Hwange Power Station shows the bright future of our power situation," he said.

In 2022’s last quarter, Zimbabwe faced inordinate blackouts that hampered business and increased generator dependence, damaging the ease of doing business and raising costs. Some listed firms foresee growth and profits from improved energy and rains boosting agriculture.

Though optimistic, new mining applications could outpace ZPC’s progress, and global preference for clean energy challenges Zimbabwe’s coal dependence.

In summary, most businesses should not expect easing outages before 2024 when Hwange Unit 8 connects, and further applications may again lower supply below half of peak demand unless clean energy initiatives start before 2025. Overall, while Zimbabwe’s energy situation is improving, consistent supply remains elusive. With policy reforms, innovation, and investment in alternative energy, the light at the end of the tunnel can continue to grow brighter.

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