‘No easy walk to sufficient power in Zimbabwe’

Mugabe24 September 2013, Harare – Power supply remains one of the major challenges affecting key sectors of Zimbabwe. The government has invited the much needed power to consumers. Sunday Mail News Editor Morris Mkwati spoke to Zesa Chief Executive Engineer Joshua Chifamba on these and others issues affecting the energy sector.

Zimbabwe and Zambia are negotiating to build another hydro-electric power generation station at Batoka Gorge in Victoria Falls how far has this project gone and what is the expected power generation capacity?
The expected power generating capacity is 1600 megawatts; 800 megawatts a piece on either side of the Zambezi River. So far in how far this project has gone in fact we are quite fortunate that World Bank is keenly interested in supporting this project. They have put on the table US$6 million which we are using to engage consultants to review the feasibility study.

A feasibility study was done some time back in the late eighties and nineties. Reviews of the feasibility study as well as reviewing the environmental impact assessment study. Once this has been done we then go to tender both governments have agreed this project be built on the basis of Build Operate and Transfer or basically akin to an IPP although at an agreed point in time. The project will be transferred to both governments.

Help us to put both things in perspective sir. What is the capacity, the power need of Zimbabwe in terms of megawatts? How many do we need on a daily basis?
I indicated that figure earlier on we work on the basis of 2200 megawatts as the national requirement but of course that fluctuates from time to time it also fluctuates between off peak and during peak and 2 200 turns to reflect the pick periods as it goes to off periods and I also indicated that sometimes even when we are generating 1 500 we go through a day without offloading any entities any units at all no shed loading whatsoever.

Today was a case in point we were producing something like 1400 and there was no load shedding at all. That was sufficient today.

Would you say 1 400 is an average of what we are producing every day?
At this point in time but we are gaining capacity and I think that point needs to be stressed whereas for example we were producing at Hwange something like 12 months ago we were producing 200 megawatts we are now producing anything around 650 megawatts. We still have a 100 plus gain that we expect out of Hwange and this will come when more and more refurbishment is undertaken.

At Harare Power Station for example only two weeks ago we were producing 17 megawatts and this morning today we were producing because unit three is back on steam and its not been generating over the last 10 years.

So back on steam was giving an additional 30 megawatts. So 30 megawatts plus 17 megawatts took us close to 50 megawatts and that’s an improvement. I am fairly confident that using installed capacity we can generate adequate electricity for our needs.

And I have heard report on the media that you are not importing any electricity at the moment is that correct.
I wanted to further clarify the figure of 2 200 megawatts. It is the peak demand figure that is required during winter time. Yes and on the issue on what the daily demand is we can only give you averages.

The daily demand is a function of many things. Is a function of the weather when it is very hot, cold you have people putting their heaters on so the demand will increase.

And also it’s a function of industrial and general economical activities in the country. If the economy is doing very well we expect the demand to be very high so.

There are many factors that actually influence demand but its fluctuating. The measures are done every 30 minutes by the way. And 30 minutes is about the time in engineering designs that we look at in terms of how much stress can plant take in sustainable way. Then you have to upgrade so those are one of the issues that important in considering this issue.

I understand the youngest plant is 25 years old, meaning the rest are very old, how much is required to refurbish these ones or overall them so that we get optimum production?
Just a few facts which are important if you look at our total installed capacity that is you are looking at the name plate rating what the planting was initially designed to do. We have a total capacity of 1 960 megawatts.

This is against a demand of 2 200 megawatts so even if all we had was firing we would have a problem especially in winter meeting our demand. In summer we won’t have a problem. So the first strategy obviously is to ensure that some work is done at the capacity of these plants.

Obviously we won’t be able to reach 1 950 like has been indicated if the youngest plant is 25 years old I mean we can put money into, get money into it but we won’t get to the 1 950 megawatts where the plant is actually designed to be.

So the work that is being done now and the incremental gains are result of investment put towards refurbishing the plant particularly at Hwange.

We were 200 megawatts down only a few months ago now we have rammed up to 650 megawatts before we got the support from Namibia we were down even to 40 megawatts, there was a time when there was virtually no production at Hwange Power Station. That is how bad it was.

Why is it that the country has experienced more load shedding in the summer that in winter when traditionally we are supposed to using less power?
There is no doubt that load shedding is a dreadful thing and we only do it as a last resort. This will only get to situation where we do not have load shedding when we have corrected those fundamentals that we have indicated earlier on primarily ensuring that we have enough support to meet demand.

We only undertake it as corrective measure. It is to try and force demand to match supply that is available. If we didn’t make such an intervention what will happen is demand will pull the system down and we will have a black-out.

When we have a black out to get the system up and running can be a mammoth task. But when we implement our load shedding it has to be equitable in the sense that the customers have to all endure the same hours of load shedding, where we can.

We tend to focus on what the shortage is going to be and consummate with that we then publish programmes where we take out those chances of the load to match supply.

It is a hit and miss kind of exercise hit and misses exercise for instance you may focus that you will have a shortage of 500 megawatts and get a shortage of 600 megawatts then load shedding is severe and we get out of the published programme or you may actually be lucky and get much less that what you anticipated and when that happens we have less to shed and we do not shed others.

In such instances those who does not know what is happening on the supply side they think we shedding others more than others but we are actually doing on the instance and seeing what supply and demand is there on the system.

In implementing load shedding we spare certain loads like hospitals and some critical loads and that is purely for humanitarian groups. There are times when you have some people who are never shed. It is because they are ridding on backs of people on the same line which is not supposed to be shed.

What is happening now is that Cabora Bassa where we usually get 250 megawatts off peak they have reduced us to 50 megawatts because they are carrying out maintenance.

We are going to be taking ZPC out to maintain the plant for maintenance so that come winter the plant has been maintained because that is when demand is more rigorous and that plants get strained in the process.

Energy efficiency is an integral part of the power system development and in terms of developing and capacity to meet demand. In fact you may recall that Zesa has embarked on programme to replace compact flourscent lights for our clients.

We have installed just under a million now from our account and we are looking to serving in the order 150 to 180 megawatts from lighting alone. There is no doubt that energy efficiency will go a long way and we implore our customer to see that they invest in saving. They will save on their bills as well as alleviate the challenges we have in terms of not having enough energy to meet demand.

We believe the prepayment system is doing well in terms of Zesa revenue. Why is the prepaid system not being rolled out with haste some areas so that we move away from the post pay method?
As of yesterday we have about 293 000 prepaid meters installed that’s over half of our customer base were we are going to install meters and any new connections that arise for domestics will be on prepaid as well as low capacity commercial and agriculture.

That all going to be on prepaid. Those areas where there have no meters at the moment its simply because the isolation teams have not moved to those areas but very soon we are envisaging that come.

December this year everybody will be on prepaid. All residential customers will be on prepaid no doubt about that by December. We have had challenges that we need to resolve in particular funding also because people were not paying their bills, we did not have enough cash with which to finance the roll out but we have managed to raise some facilities with some banks and the problem is ongoing.

How much have we raised from these Bank facilities.
Well the new facility that we will be using now will be about US$45 million dollars. The total cost of the project is about US$72 million to install all those prepaid meters.

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