Zimbabwe faces more severe power outages as regional suppliers have reduced power supplies that the nation’s power utility can import into the country at any given time due to a failure to pay-off debts, an official said.
The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) Holdings’ Business Planning and Development manager, Engineer Patrick Chivaura, said supplies to the country were reduced because of ZESA’s failure to clear its arrears by June 30.
Regional power utilities of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique and Zambia had given ZESA up to June 30 to clear a US$57 million debt for electricity supplies.
Zimbabwe owes $40.3 million to Hydroelectrica Cahora Bassa (HCB) of Mozambique, US$9.8 million to Snel of the Democratic Republic of Congo and $1.7 million to Zambia (Zambian Electricity Supply Commission) ZESCO.
A further $5.7 million is owed to Mozambican electricity distribution company, EDM Power.
“There will be an intensification of electricity blackouts since the amount of electricity that we can import at any given time has been reduced until we clear our debts,” Chivaura told delegates attending a conference held in Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo, that is running concurrently with the country’s annual mining and engineering exhibition, Mine Entra.
Western and Far East exhibitors snubbed the Mine Entra showcase that began on Wednesday and ended on Friday.
“There is limited power we can access from Mozambique, Zambia and DRC, our regional suppliers, at the present moment because of our failure to pay on time,” Chivaura added without mentioning when the regional suppliers cut back electricity supplies to Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe imports 35 percent of its electricity requirements ÔÇô between 350 and 500 megawatts ÔÇôfrom neighbouring countries.
The country requires about 1700 megawatts of electricity at any given time but ZESA, which faces a myriad of challenges, is only producing 890 megawatts, resulting in a shortfall of 410 megawatts, thereby sparking power outages.
Coal shortages have also crippled ZESA’s ability to produce enough electricity for the nation as seen by its failure to run its largest thermal plant in Hwange and three small plants in Bulawayo, Harare and Munyati.
The country’s major coal supplier, Hwange Colliery Company (HCC), reduced coal supplies to ZESA due to a failure to clear debts for supplies.
Chivaura said that efforts to get coal from Botswana were not viable as the coal was more expensive than that produced by Hwange colliery.
The power utility company was last month refused permission to mine coal by the government, which said that ZESA should concentrate on power generation only.
ZESA had planned to venture into coal mining in the south-western part of the country to reduce load shedding rate.
In March, ZESA Holdings struck a US$800 million deal with local company Clidder Minerals to construct a coal mine and two power units in Hwange.
The deal came two years after ZESA was granted two mining concessions by the previous ZANU-PF government as the company was seeking to extract more coal, the major component used in power generation at its Hwange Power Station.
The project had been on the cards for years.