PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday said households may be disconnected from the national electricity grid in response to the crippling energy crisis. “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 the sectors, will see us speedily migrating more households to solar,” Mnangagwa wrote in his weekly opinion article published in a State-owned weekly newspaper.
Mnangagwa said he called an urgent meeting of government departments and service providers whose functions relate to power production and supply last week to deliberate on the power crisis. Zimbabweans are enduring prolonged power outages lasting days at a time. Last week, the Zambezi River Authority, which manages the dam, wrote to the Zimbabwe Power Company saying Kariba South should shut down until at least January because it had run out of water to generate electricity.
Kariba produces over 70% of the country’s electricity. Industry has warned that the electricity crisis will force some companies to close, or increase the cost of their goods and services to hedge against production and operational losses resulting from the use of generators. The energy crisis, Mnangagwa said, was at the very least expected to persist until April next year when water levels at Kariba are expected to have risen.
“Kariba contributes almost half of our power needs, which is why a reduction in its generation capacity immediately registers throughout our economy, and in our lives,” Mnangagwa said. “Our focus must now be broader than the Ministry of Energy and Power 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.” Mnangagwa said importing electricity was a priority as the current power crisis posed a threat to the viability of industry and Zimbabwe’s ability to attract investment across all sectors.
Energy minister Zhemu Soda on Friday confessed that funding for power imports was not readily available. However, Mnangagwa said resources would be made available. “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,” Mnangagwa said. “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 the industry is currently facing. Solutions will be found urgently.” Mnangagwa pleaded with the private sector to join government in investing in renewable energy and close the supply gap. “The government and the private sector must now begin a conversation on what, together, we need to do to step up investments in renewables.
We have enough sunshine, we have enough land for solar farms. We must now move together, in concert, so we step up investments in energy. We now all know and appreciate the costs that come with power shortages.” At present, Zimbabwe is importing a combined 250 megawatts (MW) from Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa. The remainder of Zimbabwe’s power comes from Hwange Power Station. Hwange has installed capacity of 920 megawatts, but only manages 300MW on average due to ageing equipment.