LOCAL NEWS

More electricity secured for Christmas

Imports boost power supply

More lights will be turned on over Christmas as power supplies have significantly improved, with load-shedding reduced after Zesa Holdings was able to purchase an additional 150MW from Electricidade de Moçambique, bringing total imports from that supplier up to 200MW, and complete repairs on Hwange Units 5 and 6, the larger of the old units.

Customers will not face the aggressive load curtailment they have been experiencing in recent weeks, according to Zesa’s stakeholder relations, because output at Kariba South was cut sharply to run-of-river after stored flood waters were exhausted, faults at Hwange Thermal meant only two of the six units were running, and a general shortage of regional capacity made imports difficult.

“This development follows weeks of depressed generation attributed to the dropping water levels at Lake Kariba which necessitated the directive to reduce power generation at Kariba South Power Station by the Zambezi River Authority,” said Zesa.

“Moreover, the incessant breakdown of the aged Hwange Power Station equipment saw the station operating with two units during the period. The current power generation challenges affecting the region affected electricity trading on the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) market, further reducing import arrangements in the face of exponential demand for power in the country.

“Our engineers and technicians have been working frantically to ensure increased power generation. Consequently, we have increased generation at the Hwange Power Station by getting the broken down units back up, resulting in 5 of the 6 being currently operational which has increased supply to the national grid.”

Along with the rise in local generation and the increased imports from Mozambique, following the Government making the required foreign currency available, there is an expected cut in demand with a swathe of business on its annual maintenance shut-down and reduced demand in other sectors.

“In the past weeks, we have been extensively engaging with various stakeholders so as to implement critical measures to alleviate the power deficit challenges,” said Zesa, noting that the deficit was common to most SADC countries. But there was extra capacity in Mozambique which Zesa has managed to tap.

“We have successfully managed to secure the injection of additional imports from other SAPP members to support supply until the Kariba reservoir recovers in the first quarter of next year.

“We would like to express our profound gratitude for the support and commitment we got from the Government to mobilise the much needed foreign currency.”

Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube told Parliament last week he had made US$34 million available to boost and pay for needed imports.

Zesa has also been working with its largest customers, those who pay for their maximum power demand rather than buy units of energy as domestic and other businesses do. This allows these customers, mainly the largest mines and some of the largest industries, to import directly.

So Zesa worked with them to intensely facilitate the establishment of an Intensive Energy User Group (IEUG) with to guarantee supplies to maximum demand customers and ease pressure on the grid, said the statement.

Besides importing directly, Zesa said these customers could support the development of independent power producers in Zimbabwe by signing supply agreements directly with them. For both the direct imports by very large users and those buying directly from the independents, Zesa just provides the grid to bring the power from the supplier to teh customer.

The first meeting of this IEUG of major users was held on March 29 this year and there have been engagement meetings in Zambia and Mozambique since then.

“We are now pushing that we move faster on this initiative as it is in line with global developments where the private sector is involved more and more in developing and securing power supplies.

“As a sign of progression and commitment, during the current crisis some of the members of this group offered to resource the utility with advance payments of their electricity usage bills to enable us to meet our power import obligations, and to date one such transaction has already been implemented.”

The next main step is to bring the pair of new generating units at Hwange Extension on line, with their extra 600MW. Tests at Hwange 7 should soon be complete, to be followed soon after by Hwange 8, and senior Zesa staff have joined other technical staff and the resident power station staff and are staying at Hwange over the festive season to keep the commissioning momentum going.

“The two units were originally expected to supply the grid from early this year. But the delays caused by Covid-19 derailed the completion. But “commissioning preparations are well on course”, Zesa said.

The technical tests were progressing well and the utility expected the first 300MW from Unit 7 soon.

“Every indication is that it has been built well. We are treading cautiously on the technical aspects so that we energise robust machinery hence the need to follow all comprehensive commissioning tests. It is against this background that on this last mile, the Zesa leadership and respective staff are resident at the Hwange Power Station for the duration of the festive period being cognizant of the importance, expectations and urgency that this matter presents.

“As a lasting solution and going forward: Unit 8 is progressing well and is planned to be commissioned during the first quarter of next year. We are delighted by the recent announcement by Government to support a good number of independent power producer projects, mostly solar which have been awaiting a guarantee structure.

“The Ministry of Energy and Power Development and ZESA will procure the capacity to the extent to not only balance supply and demand, but also to export surplus capacity, as well as to conserve water in Lake Kariba which will be used both as a balancing plant for renewables as well as energy banking for IPPs.”

Solar is an intermittent supply but with a very large reservoir at Lake Kariba, and an oversized power station at Kariba South, Zesa for some time can cut right back at Kariba during the day, saving its water ration, and then as the sun goes down start up ever more of its eight generators to take over the load, in effect banking the solar as stored water and then using it to run the station.

Zesa warned consumers that power charges would rise, something that Finance Minister Ncube mentioned in the budget. This would be likely with the increased investment now required, and being moderately bunched, and in the shorter term by the greater reliance on coal, with the higher running costs. While hydro, solar and wind have low running costs, there are initial high capital costs.

“However,” said the statement, “the combination of the Kariba complex with solar, minihydro and wind power whose costs are on a reduction trajectory will ensure competitive pricing to our consumers. Zimbabwe has a clear roadmap to transition its power generation to support a green economy to include the Batoka project which will be a joint venture between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“Discussions between the countries are now being speeded up whilst development financiers are still being sought. The company is also advancing projects to utilise the available hydro capacity provided by the 10 gorges,” said ZESA.

The development of a massive hydro potential on the Kafue and Zambezi basins and operation of the power plants on a collaborative conjunctive basis was also being considered as one of the most viable strategy for the region.

“We have secured funding for the Hwange Power Station life extension and repowering of small thermal power stations. Whilst we anticipate all these plans will help the supply side, customers are being encouraged to use the available power sparingly and engage in demand side management initiatives to ease pressure on the grid.

“Accordingly, ZESA would like to assure its valued customers that they will not experience the aggressive load curtailment they have been experiencing in the past few weeks during the festive period. The utility is conversant of the need to guarantee supply to the nation, and thus we not only have measures to mitigate the emergency but also have opportunities to increase capacity and to improve service delivery,” said the power utility in a statement.

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