Power project pleases business, but more is needed

The business community has welcomed the announcement by ZESA that it is starting work on the expansion of the Kariba South power plant, but has stressed that more still needs to be done to raise production levels.

Commercial Farmers’ Union president Charles Taffs
Commercial Farmers’ Union president Charles Taffs

According to ZESA, work on the Chinese-funded hydro-extension project is set to start this month. Zimbabwe secured a $319.5m loan from China Exim Bank to finance the project.

The project will cost $355m and the cash-strapped government will provide the balance. The expansion will add 300MW to the national grid and the first unit is expected to be commissioned in 2017.

Commercial Farmers’ Union president Charles Taffs told The Zimbabwean that he welcomed the development.

“Anything pointing towards the expansion of our power generating capacity is a good thing and we support it fully,” Taffs said.

The CFU boss, however, said the remained concerned that other factors limiting production were still to be addressed.

“We need to look at other things to complement this move. We must develop land tenure and we need an irrigation system up and running,” he said. “Let’s get the financing structure through the banks working so that the whole country can take off.”

The country’s economic pillars of agriculture, mining and manufacturing have been hamstrung by lack of finance. This has been compounded by the energy problems. At present, ZESA is generating between 1,300 and 1,400MW against daily national demand of 2,200MW.

The peak levels represent a suppressed demand because industry is still operating below optimal levels, meaning that power demand could surge with increased capacity utilisation in the manufacturing sector.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Charles Msipa said the power deficit had crippled and hampered production in the sector.

“This (the expansion) could not have come sooner. We need more projects of this nature so that our capacity can be improved,” Msipa said. “These projects should be accelerated.”

Economist Innocent Makwiramiti said the Kariba South expansion project was just a drop in the ocean in addressing the country’s energy and infrastructure needs.

He slammed government over other mooted but unimplemented projects, citing the Batoka project, which has been on the cards for a long time but had faced funding problems.

“If we had implemented such projects we wouldn’t be having the problems we are having now,” he said.

The $3bn Batoka project is a joint endeavour between Zimbabwe and Zambia and is expected to generate up to 1,600MW to be shared equally between the two countries.

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