Lately, electricity issues have been topical in Zimbabwe. The rate at which some folks have been experiencing power outages has been crippling. Some say they are experiencing load shedding from before 0600hrs to around 2200hrs or so. Whilst some experience that a few days a week, some experience this on a daily basis. There has been outrage, especially considering that many people do directly purchase electricity. So dire has the situation become that industrial and commercial activity is being compromised. Due to the relentless public outcries, ZESA recently decided to say some things about these incessant power outages.
It was indicated that this year’s peak demand was roughly 2000 MW. That figure is reflective of faults and other technical dynamics. At the moment, the peak demand is around 1750 MW. Between January and March 2022, independent power producers (IPPs) supplied 98.51 MW to the national grid. The Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) is generating 1450 MW.
Power Imports Status
There are 4 active contracts with regards to this. These are with Eskom (South Africa), Zesco (Zambia), HCB (Mozambique), and EDM (Mozambique). We get 100 MW from Eskom (variable depending on load shedding dynamics on their side), 100 MW from Zesco, 50 MW from HCB, and 50 MW from EDM. That gives a total of 300 MW. Importation of power is considered a mitigatory measure which I find interesting.
ZESA said they facilitated the setting up of an Intensive Energy Users Group (IEUG). Its thrust will be to procure power from the region. Plus, they will also procure power from Zimbabwean suppliers. The idea behind this is to lessen the burden on ZESA. Thus this is also considered a mitigatory measure.
ZESA said they are still engaging government ministries to enable companies to mobilize foreign currency for imports. They are also still pushing for cost-reflective tariffs. This is in a bid to operate viably without having to pile up its debt. ZESA still continues to roll out its debt collection drive. The quest is to ensure customers pay on time and those with arrears pay up.
The Menacing Issue Of Vandalism
The issue of vandalism has become so disturbing in Zimbabwe. ZESA said they are losing over US$4 million per annum due to vandalism. They said 30 percent of that is from vandalism of copper cables, 30 percent is from vandalism of transformers, and 60 percent is from vandalism of various accessories. From January to March 2022 alone, they recorded over 500 cases of vandalism. Yet, in the whole of 2021, the number of cases was around 1200.
They are intensifying the security of transformers. This is needed because I have noticed some transformers are not even fenced in or housed. They are currently lobbying for the Copper Control Act to be amended. Their argument is that it should be amended to include punitive sentences. Additionally, they are lobbying for scrap metal-related regulations to be reviewed. For example, they want export licenses to be withdrawn. Another interesting area they are exploring is that of using technology. They are looking into using surveillance and internet of things (IoT) systems for purposes of anti-vandalism and anti-intrusion.
What Is The Best Immediate Solution?
ZESA says that the best immediate solution is a cost-reflective tariff. What they are saying is that the current electricity tariffs are too low. They are too low to cover the costs of power generation and importation fully. Right now, the first 200 units of electricity in a month costs roughly ZWL$7500. This is around US$10, even less when you use parallel market rates. Frankly, they are right to say that the tariffs do not cost reflective. However, I do not think this is the top priority issue. The top priority issue is boosting power generation by all means possible. As I have highlighted before, we must get more serious with solar power generation through solar farms.
Kariba Is Not Enough And Reliable
ZESA pointed out that depending on Kariba is not a smart thing to do. This does make sense because depending on Kariba implies depending on natural rainfall. That is why over the past couple of years, it has become a norm for power issues to increase during this time of the year. This is because the water level in Kariba Dam would have drastically receded due to the lack of rainfall and hot temperatures. Right now, the water level is at just over 18 percent capacity. Obviously, you cannot expect meaningful power generation to come from that. Valid point by ZESA there. Kariba can only contribute so much.
These are some of the informative details ZESA unveiled to the public recently. The efforts being put in are commendable, and ZESA did raise some valid points. Lasting solutions to the power crisis in Zimbabwe require a multi-sectoral effort. As I will always say, we need to seriously look into setting up solar farms. Remember, we have the capacity to generate at least 10000 GW Hours of solar energy in a year.