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Zim needs 450 megawatts of imports to fill energy gap: Magombo

By Freeman Makopa | NewsDay |

Government says the country requires energy imports of between 200 megawatts (MW) and 450MW daily from regional utilities to meet its power deficit.

Zimbabwe has been reeling under rolling power cuts since the start of winter in May. Some of the country’s ageing power plants are being repaired and the rest are struggling to cope with growing demand, Energy ministry secretary Gloria Magombo said.

“Zimbabwe imports electricity from regional utilities (Eskom of South Africa, HCB of Mozambique and Zesco of Zambia) to augment its internal generation capacity. With a maximum demand of between 1700MW to 1850MW against an internal generation capacity of 1400MW, the country imports between 200MW and 450MW to meet this deficit.

“The imports are, however, on a firm and non-firm basis and also depend on the level of internal systems demand and status/availability of generation units especially at Hwange Power Station.”

Magombo said the electricity challenges that Zimbabwe is facing were a result of many factors, including delayed commissioning of new generation capacity especially at Hwange due to COVID-19 disruption of supply chains, failure to maintain and rehabilitate existing infrastructure and failure to attract significant investments through the private sector due to perceived high-country risk.

This has resulted in frequent and unpredictable plant failures especially at Hwange Power Station.

She said during off-peak periods when demand is low, some units at Kariba Power Station (peaking power plant) are shut down and at that time no imports will be required.

An additional capacity has been developed by Zimbabwe through private sector investments including 50MW from the ZZEE (Zimbabwe Zongxin Electric Energy Company) in Hwange, Padenga 1,2MW in Kariba, Centragrid 2MW in Nyabira, Solgas 5MW solar power plant at Cross Mabale, Riverside 2,5MW in Mutoko and 4,4MW in Tanganda to mention a few.

Meanwhile, a combined capacity of over 10-15MW solar power has been established by various companies connected to the national grid for own consumption through rooftops and ground mounted systems, with beverage manufacturer Schweppes having the biggest rooftop at 1MW.

However, Magombo said the electricity shortage confronting the country presented investment opportunities for local and foreign companies, adding that Zimbabwean investors should capitalise on the deficit to invest in power projects.

“We have a lot of investors who want to come into the sector as Zimbabwe is open for business,” Magombo said.

“The fact that we have a supply-demand deficit presents a huge opportunity for investments. We are also open to innovative solutions to meet our demand. We believe that over and above external investors, we should urge local investors, including pension funds and insurance companies to invest in the energy sector.”

She said the number of energy projects licensed by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority demonstrated the appetite investors have for the power sector.

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