Zimbabwe’s power utility, ZESA Holdings, will start synchronizing into the national grid the first of two generators being installed by a Chinese firm at Hwange Thermal Power Station Monday, in a move that will ease power shortages in the country.
The 300-MW unit is part of two generators making up the Hwange Thermal Power Station Unit 7 and 8 Expansion Project being undertaken by Sinohydro under a facility from China Eximbank.
The expansion started in March 2019 but was stalled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The second unit, which will also produce 300 MW, is due for commissioning in April, according to Energy and Power Development Minister Zhemu Soda.
Hwange Thermal Power Station currently has an installed capacity of 920 MW but is generating much less because its first six units are dilapidated and in need of rehabilitation.
Units 7 and 8 are thus expected to bring relief to consumers who are going without power for most of the day and only getting it during off-peak times at night.
ZESA’s subsidiary, Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), announced at the weekend that the synchronization would begin Monday.
“One day to go. On Monday, the 20th of March 2023, ZPC will begin the process of synchronizing the Hwange Expansion Project’s Unit 7 into the national grid,” the company said on social media.
After the two units come on stream, it will allow the power utility to refurbish the older units.
Harare resident Tapiwa Makombe said he hoped that the commissioning of the two units would go a long way in alleviating power shortages in the country. “With power generation at Kariba Dam expected to go up in the next few months following good rains in the region, the two units at Hwange will definitely go a long way in boosting supplies in the country. We’re now weary of load shedding which can last up to 18 hours a day,” he said.
Power generation at the Kariba South Power Station had been curtailed since late 2022 after water levels at the dam had become critically low.
Many industrial, commercial and domestic energy users have of late resorted to generators and solar to power their operations, with many complaining about the huge cost of running diesel generators.
The informal sector has not been spared either, with many such as welders, stone masons, hammer millers and steel fabricators saying that they can no longer sustain themselves.
Zimbabwe has a peak demand of about 1,700 MW and plugs the deficit with imports from neighboring countries.
Some consumers have demanded that the power utility should publish load-shedding schedules, but the power utility has said that it cannot do so because of the heavy shortage.
Responding to a customer on Twitter, an official at the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) — another subsidiary of ZESA — said it was difficult to publish load-shedding schedules because of the power deficit. “We do value your suggestion, but at the moment it’s difficult to have a schedule because we don’t have enough power,” the official said.
Chinese-funded power plant expansion project in Zimbabwe set for commissioning
Chinese firm Sinohydro undertook the project, adding 600 MW to Hwange Thermal Power Station, the country’s largest coal-fired power plant.
The project will be commissioned by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday.
Zhemu said at a press conference that recent media reports predicting a return to prolonged power cuts after August were false, as Zimbabwe is now guaranteed adequate power supplies in the short-to-medium term.
He said Unit 7 is already feeding into the grid after the successful completion of tests in June and is now commercially available for operation. Unit 8 is also undergoing a similar test and is expected to be available commercially by August or September this year.
“So there is no way that we are going back to the past where we used to experience long hours of load shedding,” Zhemu added.
Five die in Binga traffic accident
BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI
A Stallion Cruise bus overturned in Binga on Sunday morning killing five passengers on board, police have revealed.
According to witnesses, the bus which was travelling to Bulawayo was reportedly speeding when the accident happened.
National police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the bus overturned and landed on its roof in the Sikalenge area between Siabuwa and Binga centre.
“The ZRP confirms a fatal road traffic accident which occurred on 16/07/23 in the morning near Masumo Bridge, Samende area, Binga in which a Stallion Cruise bus travelling from Siabuwa to Binga overturned,” Nyathi said.
“The ZRP confirms that five people were killed whilst the number of injured is yet to be ascertained.”
The bus reportedly veered off the road at a sharp curve near the Masumu River bridge at around 7AM.
The accident comes barely a week after the same bus caught fire in Mutare on July 11 and all passengers escaped unharmed.
Zimbabwe declares its own load shedding over, but locals are sceptical
Zimbabwe’s government on Tuesday announced a sudden end of blackouts that have crippled businesses and left millions of households without electricity for up to 19 hours a day.
The information ministry said a cabinet meeting had “noted with satisfaction” that the power utility “has announced the end to load shedding as a result of the interventions implemented” by the government.
The statement did not give details of the steps taken to end the load shedding.
The southern African country has for years been reeling under severe power shortages.
They worsened late last year when the main electricity supply, a hydro plant at the giant Kariba Dam in the north, suffered very low water levels caused by recurring droughts.
In March the power utility company said it had launched a new 300MW coal-fired unit with Chinese finance in a bid to ease repeated power outages.
But Zimbabweans greeted the news of the end of outages with scepticism, as some said they were sitting in the dark as the announcement was made.
One Zimbabwean @sammie541 tweeted “funny (be)cause we actually don’t have…(electricity) now”, adding her Harare neighbourhood had been without power since Monday.
Other Zimbabweans questioned on Twitter if the announcement was not strategically timed ahead of national elections due next month.
The country goes to the polls on August 23 to elect a president and legislature.
Eighty-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced strongman ruler Robert Mugabe in 2017 after a military-led coup, is seeking re-election.
But he faces a disaffected population that is battling hyperinflation, poverty and high unemployment.
Official figures placed inflation at 175.8% in June, up from 86.5% in May, but Johns Hopkins University professor of applied economics Steve Hanke believes real inflation in Zimbabwe is more than 1 000%.
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