Four more years of blackouts

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HARARE – Zimbabweans should brace for four more years of power blackouts as normal electricity supplies are only expected in 2018 after the completion of the Kariba South Hydro Extension project funded by China’s Exim Bank.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and Exim Bank vice president, Zhu Hongjie signed a $355 million deal yesterday in which the government, through Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), will supplement 10 percent towards the construction of two power generating units with a capacity to generate 300 megawatts.

The preferential loan agreement has a two percent interest rate per annum with a grace period of five years and repayment period of 20 years.

ZPC is currently producing 1 200 megawatts against a projected energy demand of 2 200 megawatts (MW) per day.

“We all agree that energy is a key enabler in any economy,” Chinamasa said.

“Without reliable energy supplies, our economic turnaround efforts will not bear fruit.For Zimbabwe, this has hamstrung efforts to revive our underperforming economy.”

Load shedding has not spared the few operating industries and many are now relying on power generators.

With the region suffering power shortages, Chinamasa said the solution to the country’s electricity woes lies in the construction of new power plants.

Zimbabwe is however, keen on improving power generation with the other major source of power Hwange Power Station going through a refurbishment worth millions of dollars.

The expansion project will see the thermal station having two additional units each producing 300 megawatts of power but there is no time frame for the completion of the project which again will involve Chinese contractors.

Analysts say improving power generation will jump-start the country’s economy which is showing signs of distress.

“Excessive load-shedding will render local industry uncompetitive as companies will be forced to look for alternative energy sources and this increases the cost of doing business in the country,” said Kipson Gundani, the chief economist for the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC).

Gundani noted that government must open up the sector to private players — both local and international — who have enough resources to set up electricity plants in the country.

Over the last two years, Zimbabwe has licensed 12 independent power producers but their contribution to the national grid is yet to be felt.

“I don’t see any industrial revival without adequate power supplies,” Gundani said.

Economist John Robertson said if the power situation does not improve soon, industrial capacity will continue to deteriorate.

“Electricity generation is a capital intensive sector and with the liquidity situation in the country, we cannot do it alone because we don’t have the resources,” he said.

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