Mnangagwa urges national response to tackle energy shortages

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa
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HARARE – A broader national response is required to tackle the energy shortages gripping Zimbabwe, including increasing imports and harnessing renewable energy, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in his weekly column published in the state-run Sunday Mail on Sunday.

Zimbabwe’s energy supplies have been significantly curtailed after Kariba Power Station, the country’s main hydropower plant, cut generation by half due to receding water levels.

Mnangagwa said his government will urgently find solutions to the power shortages. “We urgently need to plug the current deficit through more imports. Enough resources have to be mobilized for that to happen.”

The government is “concerned about power-related stresses which industry is currently facing”, and is mobilising resources to import additional electricity from neighbouring countries to meet domestic demand following the decline of power output at Kariba Power Station, President Mnangagwa has said.

Last week, the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), which manages the river’s water on behalf of Zambia and Zimbabwe, limited electricity generation at the plant to 300 megawatts (MW) owing to reduced water levels.

Writing in his weekly column in The Sunday Mail, President Mnangagwa said he convened an urgent meeting for all Government departments to tackle the emerging threat, which has been occasioned by climate change.

The Government is working on harnessing renewable energy while ensuring the private sector also contributes to power generation.

He said the authorities will continue exploring ways of exploiting the country’s vast coal resources to produce additional power.

“We have to engage sister countries in our SADC region with excess power to export to us. We urgently need to plug the current deficit through more imports,” President Mnangagwa said.

“Enough resources have to be mobilised for that to happen. They will be mobilised. The cost of importing power is relatively less than a slowdown in industry, whose capacity utilisation has been rising steadily.

“Or stoppages altogether, not to mention delays in new investments caused by power shortages. Such an eventuality makes us unattractive to investments, foremost foreign direct investments which are so hard to attract, and can easily choose other country destinations. I am concerned about power-related stresses which industry is currently facing. Solutions will be found urgently.”

Mnangagwa indicated that Hwange Unit 7 will be commissioned in a few weeks, while work to refurbish six existing generators at the same power station and several other thermal stations across the country is currently underway. The Government, he added, will ensure enough coal deliveries are made to all thermal power stations, as well as relook into the licensing regime to encourage independent power producers (IPPs) and new players in the renewable sector.

“The good news is that we have secured US$310 million we need to refurbish the six old generators. Hwange 7 is now on test run; we should commission it before year-end. Hwange 8 is also on course, and will be ready to augment our power supply in the second quarter of next year, 2023,” he said.

“Several smaller thermal power stations are being worked on to work closer to their installed capacity. These, alongside private power generators, should give us at least another 45 megawatts. Still, we will be far from the 2 200 megawatts we need to maintain existing capacity in the economy. Besides, more energy-intensive projects are coming on stream, meaning the demand for power continues to outstrip supply.

“Last week, upon realising this dire situation, I convened an urgent meeting for all Government Departments involved in power generation, whether directly or indirectly through support services. Our focus must now be broader than the Ministry of Energy and Energy Development. Energy is pervasive. The Transport Ministry, particularly its rail arm, has a big role to play; it has to deliver enough coal to all thermal stations, all of which must fire at full capacity.”

The President also called on the private sector to come on board through exploring innovative ways of promoting the use of renewable energy by their workforce, which Government is already doing.

On their part, authorities would consider rewarding companies through some kind of credit by way of tax rebates.

“We have a blueprint which targets households to run on solar, so we remove them from the national grid. In Government, we are already incorporating solar systems in packages which public servants enjoy. Such employer-assisted interventions, across sectors, will see us speedily migrating more households to solar,” he added.

“I thus call upon both public and private sectors to take this on board as a condition of service. Where an employer does that, some kind of carbon credit must redound to him by way of tax rebates. This, surely, can be worked out by our fiscal authorities. After all, this is far cheaper than importing more power, including for use by households.”