The circus that is Zimbabwe’s power generation continues. The country remains in literal and figurative darkness as electricity demand continues to outpace supply. As I write this, the Zimbabwe Power Company says we are producing 587MW against a demand that sometimes reaches 2200MW.
That is why we are in darkness. We can rig and twist many things but when Hwange is producing 219MW like it is today, all the sweet talk in the world will not give the masses electricity.
We have been following the goings on over at Hwange closely as it appears that is where our salvation, in the short term at least, is going to come from. Unit 7 went live last week and is still being properly synchronised. It will only give us the full 300MW it can deliver in a couple of months’ time.
We’re going to need every single megawatt from it as Units 1-6 are, to be kind, not reliable. Unit 8 should add its 300MW to the mix around October. Units 7 and 8 with their combined 600MW would be our hope, anything over 600MW from Hwange would have to be considered a bonus.
Kariba is hobbling because of low water levels and will be producing only about a third of its capacity.
What about the other plants?
Harare, Bulawayo, Munyati
When looking at power generation stats, our eyes head straight to Kariba and Hwange and we sometimes forget about these three – Harare, Bulawayo and Munyati.
That is because there hardly is any point in looking at these small thermal power stations. They hardly ever produce anything. Today, this is what they are contributing:
- Munyati – 18MW (against a current capacity of 100MW and an original of 120MW)
- Harare – 0MW (against a current capacity of 50MW)
- Bulawayo – 0MW (against a current capacity of 90MW and an original of 120MW)
In Zimbabwe where most houses don’t have air conditioning, we could theoretically power 1000 homes with a MW. So, these three are producing enough to power at most 18,000 homes. Highfields in Harare alone has over 70,000 residents or around 18,000 homes.
They aren’t even powering those 18,000 homes efficiently either. This is not helped by them not being located close to any coal mines.
That’s pitiful and the Zimbabwe government is considering shutting them down. They have asked ZESA to evaluate the efficacy and efficiency of the three small thermal power stations and devise a clear strategy on how to move forward. Said the Ministry of Energy, permanent secretary,
As government, we are saying look at its use, the cost of keeping them going in terms of a clear cost-benefit analysis and then you advise us as government in terms of the most cost-effective way to continue having them there. They are ailing and it’s expected.
These 3 are now old and inefficient. They are costly to run and the perm sec reminded us that “they don’t use thermal coal like what Hwange uses. Hwange uses what we refer to as thermal coal, but these power stations use special coal, which is much more expensive.”
I’m all for decommissioning them and letting all our efforts go to new projects. I heard that at least one of these thermal stations used to be run by a city council and that it was run efficiently then.
So maybe we could try just getting them out of ZESA’s hands. There is a chance that that could solve some problems. However, seeing as some of them were commissioned 72 years ago, I won’t be holding out any hope.
Hwange Units 1-6
I think we should also do a cost-benefit analysis on Hwange Units 1-6. As many of you have commented on previous articles, it might make sense to just pull the plug on those unreliable units. They are almost always broken down and scarce resources are wasted resuscitating them only for them to break down again in no time.
Government should ask ZESA to also evaluate the efficacy and efficiency of these units. I am sure at least one of them has to be decommissioned.
I know you may feel like we could use every single MW we can get but some of these megawatts are costing a little too much, especially in engineering time. They need to go. Let the engineers work overtime to fully synchronise Unit 7 and get on to Unit 8.
What do you think? Should we streamline our operations or should we hold on to these old stations until we are energy sufficient? What of Hwange, do you think we should keep trying to make Units 1-6 work? Do let us know in the comments section below.