I knew I should not get my hopes high but I did it anyway. It was ill-advised but sometimes you just have to be an optimist. The electricity situation will not be improving any time soon, I have to accept that. Hwange Unit 7 will not save us.
Mid-February we were told that Hwange Unit 7 would finally be going online before March and that it would drastically improve the electricity situation. I so wanted it to be true that I half-believed it. Hope is a dangerous thing.
We are now in March and Unit 7 is still not online. They say it will be commissioned in two weeks’ time. So, we went from ‘by February’s end to mid-March, in terms of ETA.’ Said the minister of Energy and Power Development,
According to Zesa, Unit 7 shall be tied on the grid on the 16th of this month while Unit 8 will come on board a month later.
I want to believe this but I’m failing to. This Unit has been close to commissioning for months and it’s starting to feel like that’s how it’s going to be for the foreseeable future.
So, where I thought we would be exporting electricity by now, we are actually in a worse position. As some of you warned when we talked about Unit 7 going online, Units 1-6 are still old and prone to breakdowns. Those breakdowns have hit again.
Several Units at Hwange break down
The news is that several units have broken down. ‘Several’ is not a good word when you are talking about only 6 units to begin with. Four out of six units have broken down. One Unit has been MIA for a while so, yes, we are down to one working unit at the moment.
This has meant Hwange is operating at only 10% of its 920MW capacity. From that 10% capacity Hwange was generating 72MW on the 1st of March. I will remind you that national demand is 1700MW in the summer and 2200MW in the winter.
We are told Unit 7 and 8 will add a combined 600MW to the grid and when (if?) that happens we will actually be able to export electricity. Not even in a drunken stupor would I believe that but it’s a good goal to have I guess.
As is always the case, engineers are hard at work to fix these old units and are at various stages of completion. This is what they are dealing with,
- Unit 4 was switched off on 15 February after developing a boiler tube leak
- Unit 1 was taken off on February 24 after a high-pressure fan got damaged
- Unit 3 was stopped on February 24 after developing a tube leak
- Unit 6 was switched off on February 23 after developing a tube leak
- Unit 5 tripped in October 2021 due to excessive turbine vibrations
All the talk about Unit 7 makes it feel like we would be up to 8 units when the reality is that we would be up to one.
Kariba in shambles too
The situation over at Kariba is just as depressing. Kariba was generating 240MW yesterday, the 1st of March. Again, national demand sits at over 1700MW at its lowest.
Engineers at Kariba have this to contend with,
- Unit 4 was taken out on July 20 2022 due to a damaged turbine runner
- Generator 1 was switched off on February 2 2023 for turbine runner inspection. Inspections were completed but it’s been placed on annual maintenance
- Unit 8 tripped on 20 December 2022 due to GTx 8 fault and is being replaced
- Unit 6 was taken out on December 16 2022 for an annual overhaul and machine cooling water pipework replacement
With all this going on, you can clearly see that low water levels have been mostly an excuse. It is true that water levels are low, even if they have improved to 13.5% right now. However, even if water levels reached 100%, we still have a lot of work over at Kariba. We are nowhere near being able to operate at 100% capacity.
That’s the situation. From all this it is hard to conclude that we will be exporting electricity in a few months’ time like the government is saying. I would bet the little that I have that that’s not going to happen.