SENIOR STAFF WRITER
AMID fears of a return to prolonged and debilitating power cuts in the country, following the blaze that engulfed Hwange Power Station on Wednesday evening, authorities were hopeful yesterday that the damage would be repaired quickly.
Energy and Power Development minister, Zhemu Soda, told the Daily News last night that the Hwange fire damage — which knocked out one of the power generation units, plunging large parts of the country into darkness — was being attended to.
The fire occurred as the country has been experiencing power cuts that have been blamed on the current heavy rains, which have damaged electricity infrastructure in some areas, as well as creaky equipment at both Kariba and Hwange power stations.
“He (Zesa executive chairman Sydney Gata) has gone there (to Hwange) to assess the level of the damage. Considering that it has affected one unit, I don’t see it impacting much on the level of power supply,” Soda said.
He also explained what triggered the prolonged loss of power in large parts of the country following the Hwange fire incident.
“They (Zesa engineers) tried to isolate that unit from other units, but in the process they also had to suspend other units from power generation … to ascertain the level of damage that was caused.
“Gata has assured me that by the end of today (yesterday) everything will be in order, except for that unit,” Soda further told the Daily News.
On its part, Zesa also said that it expected power generation at Hwange to have normalised by the end of day yesterday.
“Zesa … wishes to advise its valued stakeholders that one of the units at Hwange Power Station caught fire … The fire broke out in the Unit 1 boiler as a result of a leak in the diesel supply line and lasted for about 40 minutes.
“There were no casualties arising from the fire. Although we lost 140MW, leading to load shedding between 5.30pm and 8.30pm due to suspension of load on units 2 and 5, we are in the process of firing the two units to restore power supply to the national grid,” it said.
Hwange Power Station has installed capacity of 920 Megawatts (MW).
However, and according to a recent power generation update by the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), it is only producing 293MW.
For the last quarter, Hwange contributed 35 percent of the country’s total energy production — with 63 percent coming from Kariba Power Station.
Zimbabwe is not generating enough electricity as it is only producing about 1 075MW a day currently, against total demand of 2 200MW — necessitating critical power imports to cover the shortage.
Last year, the government announced plans to clear its debt arrears with Mozambique and South Africa — from which it imports the additional electricity, after securing a US$100 million facility from Afreximbank and reviving a 30-year trilateral agreement with the two neighbouring countries as part of a short-term solution to stabilise local power supplies.
The trilateral agreement, which was first signed in 1990, allows Zimbabwe to negotiate for “firm and competitively priced” electricity from Hidroeléctrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB) and Eskom of South Africa.