No new electricity-generation capacity has been created in Zimbabwe since 1984; the region now uses more of its electricity and has less to export to Zimbabwe; generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure has degraded through lack of maintenance, and the reviving economy is now demanding the electricity which had now been absorbed by domestic consumers, further straining the system.
This was the bleak picture painted by Energy Minister, Elton Mangoma, in a report to Parliament, but he quickly focused on his planned solutions. They do not offer much hope in the immediate future for uninterrupted electricity.
Increasing Generation Capacity and Supply Side Activities
Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) is planning to repower small thermal stations which can produce 200MW with constant coal supply, compared to the current 60-80MW.
Mangoma said short term coal supplies could be increased by more cooperation and minimal investment at Hwange Colliery Company (HCC). It would take at least 18 months to modify the boilers so that they can use the same thermal coal as Hwange Power Station.
ESSAR is also expected to lease Munyati Power Station and they have indicated that they can make it produce 140MW. Zimbabwe Power Company has applied for a licence to construct the Gairezi hydro scheme, estimated to cost $90m and to come on stream in 24 months.
Mapping has not yet started on the Lupane Coal Bed Methane project to determine how much there is in Lupane. As soon as the mapping wells are drilled, instead of closing them or flaring the gas, the gas will be directed to a series of hired machines that generate between 5-10MW. He said it was possible to start generating electricity almost immediately the wells are drilled. This would be followed by the construction of a gas fired plant which could bring 500MW into the grid.
Hwange Power Station has an installed capacity of 950MW. It however has been producing between 300 to 500 MW as a result of poor maintenance, and lack of alignment of the production facility.
Work to identify what needs to be done is underway, said Mangoma
Shamboic maintenance is exemplified by the situation where rotors on units 1 & 2 were down and management concentrated on getting them fixed without attending to ancillary equipment at the same time. Now the rotors have been repaired, but work on the stator only commenced last month.
Measures were being put in place to avoid such sloppiness including skills enhancement and greater team work, he said.
Solar energy can be generated directly into the grid for use during day time without having to go through the expense of storing it, and solar plants can be put up very quickly. The Minister said he was now considering whether it should be one plant or a number of them.
Installation of solar panels on homes is going to be trialled with a housing cooperative in Mutare. Coop members put solar panels as part of their roofs. The electricity so generated will be used within their homes and the surplus fed into the grid. At night the homes will be supplied by ZESA and at the end of the month, the account will then be settled depending on the power produced and consumed.
This policy can be extended to anyone although it may be more applicable to new housing complexes as the panels will be part of the cost of the roof, and therefore no extra investment required.
There is a programme under Rural Electrification Agency (REA) to produce solar lamps locally, targeted to retail at $10 or less. REA is working with local industry to make sure there is significant value addition in this project. It will then lead to localisation of technology and job creation. Designs are at an advanced stage. Treasury has provided $1,5m to this project, which will enable particularly school children to buy these lamps in instalments.
Zimbabwe used to import as much as 500MW from SNEL, EDM, HCB and ZESCO, but now the only firm power is 100MW from HCB because the demand for electricity within the region has been growing to a point now where whatever can be produced is utilised. The likely immediate source of imports is EDC and HCB and negotiations are underway.
Botswana was likely to commission a power plant soon. EDM is being persuaded to export 50MW which they are currently exporting to Botswana.
Zambia is also likely to commission Kariba North expansion next year and dialogue is taking place now. Mozambique is planning to do Temporary Generation at their Southern Gas fields and this will add additional generation. Zimbabwe has registered its interest, but must pay its debts to reduce our debt which will make it worthwhile for Mozambique to consider.
Demand Side Management and Institutional Changes
Tender board awarded supply and fix tenders for pre-paid meters to:
- i)Solahart Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd (Zim)
- ii)Nyamezela Consulting Engineers cc (RSA)
- iii)ZTE Corporation (China)
- iv)Finmark Marketing (Pvt) Ltd (Zim)
The roll out was expected to start in June and be completed within 10 months for outside Harare.
The current prepaid meter platform is being upgraded to handle different types and increased number of meters.
A Prepaid Meter Platform Tender was floated, adjudicated and awarded to REVMA. But the adjudication process was fraudulent. All other tenderers who proposed external hosting were disqualified as it was a specific requirement that the platform be based at ZETDC.
The adjudicators knew but presented REVMA as a direct supplier until the contract signing stage when REVMA wanted to be paid 60 cents per transaction.
Discussions with State Procurement Board (SPB) indicated that REVMA had not misrepresented their position, but that the adjudicators had falsely misrepresented the facts. As a result SPB could not reverse their award.
The only recourse is for ZETDC to approach the Administrative Court for the nullification. ZETDC has now been directed to approach the court. Any award must now be based on those who show on the ground that they have a system that works.
The contract for the supply of Compact Florescent Lamps (CFLs) has finally been signed (21/05/12). The first batch of 1 million lamps was due to be delivered on 30 June 2012.
The installation of the 5,5 million lamps in July to October 2012 will save evening peak electricity equivalent to 180MW.
A Zambian expert has been engaged for the purposes of technology transfer in the construction of prototype Biogas digesters - mostly used for heating and cooking purposes, thereby releasing electricity for other purposes. Three sites have been identified to with; Mbare Musika Vegetable Market, Harare Hospital and Roosevelt Girls High School
In the Medium Term Hwange and Kariba Expansion Projects (900 MW) are under tender; Hwange-Western Areas (1000MW) – a new coal-fired project is under negotiations with the Chinese. They get to export our coal in exchange. Several Independent Power Producers (IPPs), among three big projects, Sengwa (2400MW) Lusulu(2000MW) and ESSAR (600MW), have been licenced.
And in the long term Bindura Gas Plant (2200MW) is expected to come on stream. Mozambique has discovered vast natural gas in the Rovuma Basin and Zimbabwe has expressed interest in access to the natural gas to pipe it to Bindura where a gas fired power station would feed into the Bindura-Songo transmission lines.
Batoka Hydro project (800MW), for which a detailed geological survey was done in 1994, will now proceed on Built Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis as a Zimbabwe/Zambia project, with Zimbabwe paying Zambia $70.8million for CAPCO assets, $10m of which has already been paid.
Zambezi River Authority in consultation with the two countries will finalise the BOT framework and invite interested parties to bid put forward their proposals with fixed legal and commercial issues, leaving the interested parties to compete on design and technology.
A major long term project is the The Great Inga hydro project which is proposed as a regional project to produce more tha 40000MW.
This project would be a game changer for the region, but it requires strong leadership and project design skills to make all the political leaders comfortable with the project, said Mangoma who also noted that hydro power is cheap and that this was worth the time spent on promoting it.
On other institutional issues in the power sector, Mangoma noted that the funding of ZESA by Treasury had been minimal, despite the provisions that have been made in the budget.
An agreement has been reached with the Minister of Finance to deduct the subsidy to Sable Chemicals and Government’s indebtedness to ZESA against the funds paid by Treasury.
Zimfund’s promised $30m urgent intervention was paid in by Donor countries almost a year ago, but no disbursements have been made to date, he said.
The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority itself is proposed to be restructured “to make it more efficient and responsive to the consumers, whilst at the same time, setting up a mechanism, which will make it easy for Independent Power Producers to have a level playing field,” according to Mangoma.
He said ZESA Holdings was supposed to be only an instrument of holding shares in the successor companies. Instead it morphed into a huge bureaucracy negating the very point of establishing successor companies.
In 2002 the Transmission business was legislated to be separate from distribution, only to be reversed later. Now Mangoma is proposing that: ZESA Holdings be collapsed into a National Grid Services Company (NGSC) and move all the legacy debts to this company, which would be 100% Government owned and it would not be privatised.
NGSC would be responsible for Transmission, Market and Systems Operation. It would have the “reserve supply” responsibility.
ZETDC would transform to Zimbabwe Distribution Company (ZDC) and be responsible for Distribution of Electricity. Each of the companies would have a separate Board which would report directly to the shareholder.
He also called for Establishing an Electricity Industry to rebuild the engineering capacity to what it was at Independence and higher, thus empowering Zimbabweans people by making them partners in the supply of services and spares.
He gave his assurance that the Ministry is aware of the plight facing the people and that they shared with them the grief and misery of not having a reliable power supply. He pledged to periodically update the public on the progress through similar briefings to Parliament.
Analysts said Minister Mangoma's statement had done a lot to give them confidence that the authorities are now taking the issue of energy seriously, though there are no quick fixes. It is clear that the damage to the energy sector was done over several decades and will take time to fix.
Energy experts said the lead time on a coal fired plant was 5 to 7 years, on a gas a fired plant 4 years, on a major hydro electrical plant 10 to 15 years.
Meanwhile Zimbabweans will just have to do the best while the remedial measures are coming in, and take advantage of any opportunities to build-in solar generating capacities in their homes where they are available.