No power cut respite: ZESA

The Zimbabwe Power Company has warned consumers to brace for more rolling breakouts in coming months, insisting that the recent tariff increase was unlikely to translate into an immediate improvement in the electricity supply situation.

The Zimbabwe Electricity Regulatory Commission last month awarded the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority a 31 percent tariff increase which was effective from October 1.

ZPC is a subsidiary of ZESA responsible for electricity generation.

“Sadly this increase in tariff as of 1st October will not translate into immediate improvements in the availability of power. Lead times for retrofitting projects can be many months,” ZPC chairman Richard Maasdorp said this week.

He said major refurbishment and component replacement projects would be undertaken at Hwange and Kariba power stations over the next 12 months.

“To execute these projects there will be extended planned outages of units on a sequential basis during the year ahead,” he said.

For example, the precipitators (ash handling) on phase two plant at Hwange would be refurbished over the next seven months, meaning that some of the units at the station would be offline between this month and May 2012.

Maasdorp also warned that Zimbabwe’s electricity shortages are unlikely to end before 2015 and this would only happen if the country invested heavily in new generation capacity.

He said demand for power in Zimbabwe was around 1,800 megawatts (MW) at daily peak against local installed operational capacity of about 1,200MW.

ZPC is currently engaged in a programme to stabilise and optimise generation capacity that would increase available power to 1,500 MW over the next 12 months.

“But in the meantime demand will continue to increase. The ONLY way to close this gap is to install additional capacity and the shortest timeline to achieve this is four years,” he said.

Zimbabwe has experienced rolling power breakouts since 2000 when the country plunged in an economic crisis.

The power cuts have crippled operations of industry and the agricultural sector, forcing some companies to retrench workers as production dropped.

The country imports about 35 percent of its electricity requirements from South Africa, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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