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Gvt mulls higher electricity prices  

Blessings Mashaya

AUTHORITIES are mulling effecting another round of electricity price increases to prevent the country from plunging into a debilitating power crisis like the one that was experienced last year, the Daily News reports.
At the same time, the government is wary of disturbing the current relative economic stability which has seen some prices of basic consumer goods levelling off or coming down in supermarkets.
This comes as the country has lately been experiencing intermittent power cuts due to breakdowns at the creaky Hwange and Kariba power plants.
It also comes as one of Zimbabwe’s main sources of power, Eskom of South Africa, is experiencing major shortages of its own — to the consternation of both ordinary consumers and industries in the neighbouring country.
Deputy Energy and Power Development minister, Magna Mudyiwa, told Parliament on Wednesday that Zesa Holdings now owed nearly US$90 million to Eskom and Mozambican power utilities.
“I am sure you are aware that we have often relied on imports from Eskom and from Cahora Bassa and EDM of Mozambique.
“Now the challenge that we were experiencing is that we are still getting the imports, but the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) have been failing to service their debts with EDM and HDB.
“We are trying to be up to date with Eskom as much as we can, but because of the low tariffs that we were having since March up to now, which were not cost reflective, the utility has accrued quite a huge debt, almost US$90 million that should be paid,” Mudyiwa said, while responding to a question from Harare East MP Tendai Biti.
This comes as Zesa is angling for a viable tariff regime which it argues would enable it to pay for its power needs, without running the risk of being cut off by its suppliers.
Zesa has claimed that so low are the current tariffs that “it was now cheaper to use electricity than firewood and liquid gas”.
In January this year, the government announced plans to clear its arrears with Mozambique and South Africa — after securing a US$100 million facility from Afreximbank and reviving a 30-year tri-lateral agreement with the two neighbouring countries as part of short-term solutions to stabilise local power supplies.
The tri-lateral agreement that was first signed in 1990 allows Zimbabwe to negotiate for “firm and competitively priced” electricity from Cahora Bassa and Eskom.
Mudyiwa also revealed that the country was likely to have depressed power generation because authorities were waiting for the arrival of Italian and South African engineers to deal with the recurring breakdowns at Hwange Thermal Power Station.
“Now coming to the problem of where we are having load shedding here and there, it is all because of the outages that we are experiencing … at Hwange Thermal Power Station.
“Hwange Thermal Power Station should generate more than 500MW, but at the moment, like the report that we got today (Wednesday), it is about 300MW because we are operating with only two units,” she told Parliament.
“The other three units are out and need to be repaired. I am sure you are aware that two of those machines have been down since last year … and the work of repairing them could not go ahead because of the lockdown.
“The engineers who are supposed to come from Italy and some from South Africa have not come to continue with the repairs,” Mudyiwa added.
Last year, Zimbabwe experienced one of its worst power crises — which forced Zesa to effect punishing load shedding schedules, which lasted up to 18 hours a day.

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