Zimbabwe’s current load shedding explained

Edwin Chabuka Avatar
Inverter ZESA alternative

Some say ZESA is now working on the same off-peak hours as telecoms operators and their bonus data. It’s such a funny statement to lighten up an otherwise dark situation that Zimbabwe finds itself in. Pun intended. The lights are off and they are staying off for 18 hours or more. Why is it this bad?

Demand vs Supply

Zimbabwe’s power demand sits at 2100MW and at the time I am writing this we are producing 501MW of power. Less than 25% of the national demand. Is it a case that we don’t have enough power-generating stations to meet this demand?

No. We have enough capacity, in fact, the total installed capacity for power generation in Zimbabwe is 2210MW. Enough to meet all our energy needs and have a little over as much as Munyati Power Station’s capacity to spare However, not all available power stations are operational and the operational ones are not operating at full capacity.

Of the installed capacity of 2210MW, only 1555MW of it is operational. When we say operational we are talking of power stations that are actually running and how much they can reliably produce. A figure that can be lower than the installed capacity. ZPC at the moment lists 5 power stations.

Power StationInstalled capacityCurrent output
Kariba South Power Station1050MW200MW
Hwange Power Station920MW301MW
Munyati Power Station100MW0MW
Bulawayo Power Station90MW0MW
Harare Power Station50MW0MW

So if everything was running in the most ideal scenario we would have a net positive electricity balance meaning no load shedding plus power exports. But looking at the best-case scenario only 76% of the national demand can be fulfilled by all the power stations combined in their current state. So if in our current state, we can fulfill 76% of the national demand, why is our best effort only getting us 25% of the national demand? The best way is to look at it at the power station level.

Kariba South Power Station – 200MW/1050MW

Kariba can supply half of Zimbabwe’s power demand on its own. It’s a big power station no doubt but right now it’s only producing 200MW and that is after our Minister of Energy had some talks with the Zambezi River Authority to keep the plant running. ZPC had been ordered to shut down operations at Kariba because the lake levels are now dangerously low for power production.

The way this works is this. There is the absolute water level of the lake and the maximum depth that is available for use for electricity generation. This maximum depth is less than the full depth of the lake. So we can run out of water to make electricity without running the lake completely dry to its bed. Live water is what they call the level of water available for power generation and dead water is the remaining water below this level that cannot be accessed for electricity production.

So we are fast running out of this live water which is why power production has been greatly reduced at Kariba from the 1050MW it is capable of producing to the 200MW it is producing now.

Reducing electricity production output also manages the lake’s inflows of water vs its outflows. Water is still flowing into the lake from the Zambezi river at a certain rate. If the rate of water flowing out of the lake via power generation is managed such that it’s less than water flowing into the lake then we can still produce some power and also raise levels of water in the lake. So the Kariba situation is one we can do nothing about till the rains come hopefully in mid-January.

Hwange Power Station – 301MW/920MW

It’s the second-largest power-generating facility in the country and has been undergoing maintenance and expansions. There are 6 units currently operational and capable of producing 920MW however we are only producing less than a 3rd of that. The two biggest reasons are breakdowns and an insufficient supply of fuel (coal) to fire it up to maximum capacity.

To alleviate coal supply challenges faced by thermal power stations, cabinet approved for a long term coal supply agreement which will see coal suppliers getting long term bank financing they need to expand on their production. 

ZPC Power Column Q2 2022

The period under review saw Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) experiencing depressed generation at the thermal stations due to numerous forced outages.

ZPC Power Column Q3 2022

Thermal power stations work the same way as your car. Fuel goes into an engine, gets burnt and produces energy that moves the car. In the case of Hwange Power Station the energy produced is used to turn a generator that produces electricity. The less fuel you feed it the less energy it produces and the less electricity that comes out of that.

Then when you are servicing elements of the power station, everything needs to be shut down and in such a case no power is being produced. This then becomes really confusing when ZPC also announces that it is expanding the power station and making it bigger. Unit 7 is expected to come online by the end of this year.

In August 2018, ZPC officially commenced expansion works at Hwange Power Station which will result in a third stage being added to the station with 2 x 300MW units being constructed. The expansion project will increase Hwange’s generation capacity from the current 920MW to 1520MW.

ZPC – Hwange Power Station

We are failing to deliver enough coal to fully make use of the available capacity at Hwange and we think making the power station bigger will solve the problem. Not really. But there are cases to be made in favor of this move.

New power-generating units are expected to be more efficient with the fuel they receive meaning that given the same amount of fuel used by older units, the newer ones will be capable of producing more electricity. Also, a new machine will break down less than an old one, and considering the Hwange power station is almost 40 years old, (the designed lifespan of a coal-fired power station), it might be more economical to build it anew than to run maintenance on it.

However, the coal supply issue needs to be looked into otherwise the 1520MW of installed capacity is going to be another nice-looking figure on paper but doing nothing towards lessening load shedding. And these new units are most likely going to be taking over from the old units that are too soon to be too expensive to repair so we may never hear news of Hwange Power Station producing that 1520MW of capacity. The best bet is 900MW if the stars align.

Munyati, Bulawayo & Harare Power Stations – 0MW/240MW

These ones are completely switched off for probably the same reasons as those of Hwange Power Station. Coal is in short supply and they are so old that they are constantly breaking down. Munyati Power station is about 76 years old, Bulawayo Power station is about 75 years old, and Harare Power Station is 67 years old, and this is against an expected life span of 39 years for coal-fired power stations.

We are almost getting to double the expected life expectancy of these power stations and really at this point they are virtually dangerous to operate beyond the point of them being very unreliable now. Harare and Bulawayo power stations were actually derated to try and improve reliability and buy some time but they have not been operational for a while now. ZPC had issued applications to refurbish and revive these 3 plants but progress on that is nowhere to be seen.

We just have to live with the load shedding

In December 2019 or 3 years ago, we were in exactly the same electricity jam, and watching the videos I made back then it’s wild that the situation is still exactly the same. Our electricity producing capacity is the same. Right now we are producing 501MW and in 2019 we were producing 589MW. The only difference is that back then solar backup systems were not as accessible as they are today.

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  1. Jon

    Great article i enjoyed reading it

    1. Trevor

      Great insight

    2. Chitumba

      Let the nation reminded that even though, Zimbabwe still had the same obsolete equipment, yet between 2015 and 2018, during the tenure of Engineer Joshua Chifamba, there was hardly any load shedding.

      Does this not show that, with proper effective administration, even with ageing machinery, a company can still perform relatively well?

      Petition to get Gata and the Energy minister out with immediate effect.

  2. Anonymous

    Love this article….continue updating us but I would say that 2019 was bad,,,,,,but what we are going through now is terrible

  3. Chinowawa

    I once heard the coal at Hwange is enough to last a thousand years. Are the coal companies failing to extract it and channel it to ZIMBABWE POWER COMPANY?

    1. Engineer

      The problem is logistical. At one point Hwange Colliery used to run conveyor from open cust to HPC but that was a major bottleneck for the system. Conveyors have a lot of mechanical components, which break down due to wear. They moved to truck hauling which I believe is what is in use. This depends on loading and offloading efficiency.
      Then the efficiencies in the coal production itself that you mentioned. All these issues need to be addressed before we can switch on unit 7.

    2. Eleven

      The issue with everything gvt related is payment payment payment. Amheno kuti pa mari apa whats wrong with this govt.you will only realize it a big issue when you get inbed with them..i delivered sun flower to Gmb chendambuya a few months back and upto now ndatoneta nekufambira mari yangu saka ndoenderera mberi sei ipapa

      1. Anonymous


    3. JesusIsComing

      Ridiculous, at current consumption humans will deplete most resources in 20 years. Top 5 metals(iron, aluminum), fresh water (2 billion affected already) and fauna & floara (50 000 species/yr extinction rate). Coal is already depleted but rationed like everyother resource, to stupid Homo sapiens(Africans) by Homo sapiens/Neanderthals (Whites) for the devil. Mind, homo sapiens are genetically smarter. If the impoverished are fed we will deplete everything in like 3 – 5 years, so the weak should starve. Wiki Key words: Fresh water, Specie, Homo sapiens, Neanderthal, Devil.

      1. Snyman

        Which homo sapiens are you referring to being smarter? The Neanderthals or the Africans? And why are you calling Africans stupid?

      2. K Mik

        Yeah this is mostly untrue. No resource is going to run out in the next 20 years. Stop lying.

      3. Anonymous

        Iwe please go back to school
        Homo sapiens are humans not just africans but everyone

  4. Engineer

    Well explained.



  5. Anonymous

    Thanks for this insightful article.people forget we dont all work at either of the power companies so fully explained stories are hard to come by.

  6. Imi Vanhu Musadaro
  7. Moyo

    An excellent article, that enables citizens engage zesa intelligently..

  8. Nyajena

    This tough game

  9. Anonymous

    Ineptitude Ineptitude is the root of all our ills as a society

  10. Taneta veduwe

    “The best bet is 900MW if the stars align.”
    In short we are in trouble.

  11. Masese

    The problems all enamanet from management system and finance handling we can try to come out with all the excuses in vain

  12. M

    Hwange Colliery Co. today is not the same calibre as the one in the 80s. There has been very high technical staff turnover in the last 25 years. Today I think the open-cast mining is carried out by contractors. The government put in an administrator to oversee the management of HCC. I don’t know how far with that. Maybe the reports HCC submits to shareholders might shed some light on the reasons why they can’t meet ZPC coal demands. Forex will be there somewhere. Lack of adequate capital might also feature.

    1. A

      Forex shortages: Poor management; prioritization – HCC should not be perennially crying for forex when electricity is held in its proper place and priority. Spares should be readily availed for the needs of critical operations.

      Unrepentant staff turnover: Compare the current management and administrator to the management and directors in the 80s., and also the calibre – quality of someone’s character or the level of their ability of the technical staff now and that in the 80s. High turnover – whose baby is that and at what cost. Why does HCC tolerate such high staff turnover?

      Administrator: Government interference – see what they did to Shabanie Mashaba Mines. The government owns the HCC mess since they are responsible for the appointment of the administrator and management.

      Lack of capital: Government interference make HCC unlikely to attract investment partners with credible track record.

  13. Not easy to cross River Jorfan

    Hmmm nearly all our cities operate like ZESA, always serious water restrictions and poor waste management. The best our country is capable are feeble incoherent excuses!

  14. Too Cool

    You guys at TechZim always write half truth’s and at times opinion piece’s which mislead people. This article does not even cover the imported element of electricity. Remember Zim also imports electricity, hence you give a half full picture of the situation.

    1. 3man

      This article set out to explain in a layman’s language the reasons for load-shedding not power import schedule. In an examination setup, you do not answer back everything you know about a particular subject or topic but you give back in relevance.

    2. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

      Where is this power that is being imported? 👀

  15. Suzanne

    Excellent article.

  16. Kay Bee

    Great article well articulated

  17. tate fx

    the irony after reading the article is an add to buy zesa tokebs…haha

  18. Vic

    Very enlightening article. However, I do not get why including in your metric generation capacity for stations way past their lifespan. Which you clearly state are now uneconomic and dangerous to run. And say we have enough generation capacity to meet total demand. Sounds like Byo, Hre and Munyati are a complete write-off now. They’re as good as off the books.
    Then we hear of expansion at Hwange and the narrative doesn’t seem to fit what is happening on the ground. If we have some units which are past their lifespan and we are currently building new units, that doesn’t sound like expansion to me, that’s replacement? When we refuse to be prudent and face facts, we are only fooling ourselves. The fact is usable installed capacity is way below power demand. Uneconomic units and stations should not be part of the installed capacity metric. It’s like having an old, broken down, dilapidated car but still go round bragging to folks that I have a 600HP V8 Merc at home. Let’s be prudent with our shortfall or we will never fully take the steps we need to bridge the capacity gap.

    1. Techzim Best Reader

      You did not comprehend the art behind potential Vs reality. For instance, when we say a bus has the capacity to ferry 75 passengers but cannot owing to damaged sits and subsequently wheels. What it means is that there is need to refurbish the bus’ seats and install new wheels in order to accommodate prospective capacity!

  19. WeZanuPf

    Halft truth tho……..kune wheat irikudiridzwa uko…… magetsi iwawo anobvepi

  20. Jack Russell

    Munyati PS = 76 years old. Bulawayo PS = 75 years old. PS life expectancy = 40 years. Planning = 0 years. That is the whole story.

    Manufacturing is too expensive when alternate power is required. Manufacturing will start failing. The poo and the fan will meet again. The little economic activity present will be seriously affected—what a great Xmas present.

    When they say it surely can’t get any worse…Remember 2008…

  21. Strings

    Corruption, poor planning and bad governance that what killing our country

  22. J

    Zanu pf and its ministers are what we call maintenance managers, they haven’t done any significant projects for this country rather just maintain what was already there left by the previous regime…its not something new that water runs out in kariba every raining season but they haven’t fixed this electricity issue. Zanu pf is cholera to Zimbabwe, a headache to Africa and a cancer to the world

    1. Snyman

      They’re not even. Maintenance managers are well experienced, they are savvy. If there’s dilapidation and scarcity it means they’ve failed to maintain anything so giving them that name brings about praise over them. No contingency plan, simple

    2. Anonymous

      Cancer is better Corona chayiyo

    3. Let mamoe

      Kkkkkkkkkk Corona to the world 🌎

  23. Farmer

    well explained now i understand why they are saying kariba dam harina mvura, planning hapana all we can do is to wait for rain

  24. Thako Ncube

    Why are these stats still the same from way back in 2015, so does tat mean we haven’t increased in customer base or the demand? And on another note our country is still relying on the two big power stations since 1980. Our govt isn’t doing enough

  25. Anonymous

    Why dont they put pipes at kariba where the water flows to the Indian ocean so that all that water can be used to generate electricity other than putting all that water to waste

    1. Terrence

      I love the originality of this comment. It makes total sense but, unfortunately, science don’t work that way. Something to do with the 1st law of thermodynamics leading to conservation of energy. However, I like your thinking. It’s brings us closer to getting a novel solution to common problems, that kind of thinking.

      1. Kenn

        Returning the water uses to drive turbines back into the river is the most plausible way to alleviate the crisis. Unless if the water will be unusable after generating magetsi. Hapana zve1st Law of what what apa

    2. physics101

      Or a feedback channel to pump water back into the dam during off-off peak periods

      1. US

        The energy you use to pump the water into K.Dam!! Where are you getting it? If there is energy to do that then why not convert it to electricty….

        1st Law of Thermodynamics – Energy cannot be created or destroyed

        1. physics101

          There are two keywords you seem to have missed:
          1 off off peak
          2 feedback.

          There is no energy being created. Off off peak period means power is being generated and demand is low. Refer to the beginning of the thread by Anonymous for context.

          1. No

            There is no need to waste water to generate electricity that is not needed. Off-peak hours they just have to use enough water to meet the demand at that moment.

            1. physics101

              You are missing the point, the idea is to recycle some of the water and use it during peak periods when demand is high. This will always prevent situations like we have now.

              1. physics101

                You are missing the point, the idea is to recycle some of the water and use it during peak periods when demand is high. This will *also* prevent situations like we have now.

    3. M2

      The biggest issue with that is the water would bypass the Cabora Bassa where it is needed to generate more electricity and also the ecological disturbance caused downstream would probably be too ghastly to contemplate. But in theory if such enormous pipes could be built to run all the way from Kariba to the Indian Ocean, then it would create a water head of 500m. By moving the turbines to the end of the pipes at the Indian Ocean shores, we would have the potential to generate approximately 5 times the amount of electricity that we generate now (with a head of about 100m) while discharging the same amount of water!

  26. Nyasha Mupaso

    Life span of power stations means the Rhodesians had a plan. A good one. Zimbabweans hope all will be well somehow.

  27. Keith

    What happened to the Dema and Gwanda projects.

  28. Home Schooled.

    We are screwed as a country. These guys have zero clue to fix the problem completely clueless. They knew water levels were dropping and there was no mitigation plans only when forced by Zambezi river authority to shut down electricity generation they now start running like a headless chicken.

  29. Dr. Amai

    If you throw a rock into Zimbabwe what are the chances that it will hit someone with an MBA or Masters in Business Leadership?

    Makes one wonder how many of those degrees are worth what they owners claim them to be. Every other government director is a Dr. So and So! Well the fancy degrees earn the government folks some 1000USD per day foreign travel T&S!

  30. Anonymous

    I do not know the distance relationship between hwange colliery and the power station.
    Assuming we could create a channel between these two and fill it up with water, we could then have coal barges ferrying the coal from production point to usage port.
    Obviously there are issues as to accessing the required volumes of water but as a long term solution to transportation logistics, it could be worth considering.

    1. The Empress

      Lol the town of Hwange is basically built on top of the coal fields. The power station is less 200km from the furthest coal mine in the area nd less 50km from the nearest one by rail. There is no need to think up fancy or complicated means of getting coal to the power plants. All these problems are caused by lack of planning and outright incompetence

  31. physics101

    According to your explanation, BPC, MPC, HPC are obsolete hence have 0 capacity.

  32. physics101

    According to your explanation, BPS, MPS, HPS are obsolete hence have 0 capacity


    Germany receives sunlight for less than 6 hours per day approximately yet 40 % of her energy comes from solar.We receive full sunshine of up to 10 hours or more.Investors came for the solar project but were turned down as we found our very own guy who only managed a toilet on the sight

    1. J

      Dude even bought himself a nice pair of shoes. Ppl

  34. MinuteMan

    Zveku hwange it will take some doing.
    June july it was because of low temperatures
    August, september it was because of strong winds
    Now here we are
    Come january its gonna be the earth earthquakes in south east asia
    Anyone can see this is where the road ends

    You took us to Stone Age

    1. matsige

      Kkkk well put

  35. Princess

    Well written article. Let’s invest in more Power Generation Projects.

  36. Michael Mashayahanya

    What do you expect? Black African incompetence nothing more. This has been a problem for decades yet they’ve done nothing. We have the sun 90% of the year and so much unused land yet they cannot build solar farms to make uo for the deficit.
    I want out if this country. Ian Smith was right about black people.

  37. Techzim Best Reader

    You did not comprehend the art behind potential Vs reality. For instance, when we say a bus has the capacity to ferry 75 passengers but cannot owing to damaged sits and subsequently wheels. What it means is that there is need to refurbish the bus’ seats and install new wheels in order to accommodate prospective capacity!

  38. Techzim Best Reader

    You did not comprehend the art behind potential Vs reality. For instance, when we say a bus has the capacity to ferry 75 passengers but cannot owing to damaged sits and subsequently wheels. What it means is that there is need to refurbish the bus’ seats and install new wheels in order to accommodate prospective capacity!

  39. JesusIsComing

    Ridiculous, at current consumption humans will deplete most resources in 20 years. Top 5 metals(iron, aluminum), fresh water (2 billion affected already) and fauna & floara (50 000 species/yr extinction rate). Coal is already depleted but rationed like everyother resource, to stupid Homo sapiens(Africans) by Homo sapiens/Neanderthals (Whites) for the devil. Mind, homo sapiens are genetically smarter. If the impoverished are fed we will deplete everything in like 3 – 5 years, so the weak should starve. Wiki Key words: Fresh water, Specie, Homo sapiens, Neanderthal, Devil.

  40. Aiwaka

    I heard that 1.8. Billion was used to refurbish Hwange. Leaves me wondering. With 1.8 Billion we could have set numerous solar plants that are 80% reliable and very ecofriendly and could generate tons of power. But, eh, Im just an ordinary citizen, ive no degree, what can i know?

    1. $_$

      Only 25% of that 1.8 billion was actually used to refurbish Hwange, The rest zanu pf took in preparation for next year’s elections thats e money thats going to be used for campaigning, some the top guys to for themselves

  41. Anonymous

    Interesting read…

  42. G Musendkwa

    So IPPS are not adding or producing /contributing anything to the national grid?

    1. Patriot

      I doubt it! Zim needs power privatisation to feed the grid at the moment. Look at Zupco.
      Each province needs its own supplier! We can’t rely on kariba and hwange forever.
      I fear this will take a generation or two

  43. Kumire

    nuclear power, problem solved.

  44. Anonymous

    Engineers here … What is the way forward? Seriously
    Solar yes, but it will not cut it. There are cloudy days to consider. This country has more hydro potential why not use the Nepal hydro idea (flowing water). Besides, IPPs need support. Lets take models and implement here

    1. physics101

      Even on cloudy days you get some power, some photons make it through. Better than no power at all, no?

      Where do you suggest the Nepal hydro idea be implemented?

  45. John

    haa the guy we removed was much articulated about these things aimbomhanya mhanya varipo they just steal loot and kill people just to retain power….without any plan for developing the country

    1. Patriot

      Christmas is ruined! No festivities this year. What’s happening with the mozambique talks? Or Botswana?

  46. Hezvo

    Government yeva kuyeuka bako mvura yava kunaya

  47. Doc bob

    Wat is happening about solar farms, ZESA??

  48. Doc bob

    Wat is happening about solar farms,

  49. Sir Entrepreneur

    How far is Wicknell after getting USD 5M?

    1. Num

      Akatenga bhutsu svinu zvimwe zvese zvemagetsi ahachatozviziwe

  50. A

    Here is some new details on Kariba South station:

    Kariba Power Station’s Unit 4 Broke Down Beyond Repair | Reports

  51. Wake up

    The blame game goes on: now the consumers are said to owe ZESA $40B. Here, prepaid meters have been around for +_10 years to arrest the debt problem. Isn’t that $40B debt from the era before prepaid meters and shouldn’t it have been written off years ago as unrecoverable? The past 5 years or so letting consumers accumulate $40B debt would have to be gross incompetence. So is ZESA and government claiming to be incompetent.

    Prepaid meters were introduced in 2023, “The pre-paid meters were introduced as a debt recovery measure in 2013”. http://www.cfuzim.com/2018/06/08/600-000-electricity-prepaid-meters-installed/

  52. P.Jones

    In 1993 EdF offered to build extentions to Hwangie : new 7 and 8.
    Ownership 51% to Zesa. How much will present contracto at Hwangie agree with Zesa.
    The EdF offer was turned down and Malaysia asked to build : it never happened !

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