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By 2021, Zimbabwe will be the regional hub for power distribution.

“We are seated at the hub of the region, meaning power has to come through Zimbabwe and then we distribute it to where it would be required.”

In this exclusive interview we speak to the engineer who is a central figure in providing power to Africa: Eng. Ikhupuleng Dube, Systems Development Manager Engineer at the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC). Eng. Dube is the Chairperson of the planning sub-committee for the Southern African Power Pool and an African Utility Week Advisory Board Member for the Transmission and Distribution programme.

Eng. Ikhupuleng Dube, Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), African Utility WeekYou have been very busy, Eng. Dube, please tell us about your current work at ZETDC.
We are seated at the hub of the region, meaning power has to come through Zimbabwe and we are now establishing a super grid so that power from the north, east, west and south comes to Zimbabwe and then we distribute it to where it would be required.

The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) upgrading programme includes the building of new transmission systems that will also add up to 400 KV on the Western corridor, and enable the streamlining of up to 600 MW of electricity, soon to be generated from expanded power stations in Zambia and Zimbabwe to Botswana and Namibia.

ZETDC is under pressure for implementation because we host three major components of the regional Zimbabwe-Zambian-Botswana-Namibia (ZiZaBona) electricity inter-connector project. We are in the process of setting up additional power transmission infrastructure on the North-South corridor of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP). The power corridor links Zimbabwe to South Africa.

We are constructing a 1 000km regional power line in partnership with Mozambique and South Africa. The establishment of the power line will result in the construction of a mega power station in Triangle that will distribute power to the southern African region. The power line will originate in Mozambique, pass through southern Zimbabwe and end in South Africa's northern Limpopo Province. We are rolling out construction work for a 400kVA power line with maximum capacity of carrying 1 740MW.

ZETDC is finalising the preparatory work for the second leg of the project, which is between Triangle and Njelele in South Africa. $134 million is needed for the connection from Orange Grove to Triangle, and a massive substation will be constructed in Triangle.

What are the biggest challenges for the industry right now?
One thing is that the current model for utilities is not sustainable. We need to look at distributed generation. In most of Africa, the infrastructure is too old. The issue of technology is very old, replacing equipment for smart energy. The old equipment needs improvement in the outage management equipment.

What is being done to address or solve these issues?
Most important is the optimisation of outage management equipment. A new and emerging intelligent solution for distribution is telecom connectivity.

How does this relate to your organisation?
There are certain pillars of development that we are addressing. We are looking at technology for debt collection such as smart meters

What will happen if nothing is done about the issue?
We are losing. The old outage management equipment is inefficient and causes power outages. The effect is felt in the economy due to the downtime caused by the power outages, which we are still dealing with. The cost of power outages for the economy is huge. Because of the old equipment, we are losing business to utilities. We are losing revenue and thus cannot afford to replace the equipment. It is a debt trap.

Where do you see the market going within the upcoming year?
In the region, planners are preoccupied with finding capital for their projects. Very soon it is going to be difficult to secure finance for projects. The market for generation will shift. Business will be lost for the next two years and for many years after.

How is your company responding to the changing structural make-up of players and stakeholders in the Zimbabwean market due to the refocused energy generation mix in Africa?
We optimise needs into resource plans. We always ask ourselves how we can deploy the solution to the needs for economic efficiency. We use system development technology for our hydropower. There are a number of solar projects coming and with biomass; we are players in the market. Another model we employ is to use renewable energy as the demand side: solar pumping, banking power – wheeling. It depends on the application.

Smarter energy systems and evolving market structures are changing the relationship between producers and consumers. What implication does this have for your company?
Poverty means a negative relationship for the supplier and the consumer. The issue of a slow tariff means that we, essentially, lose revenue for the company, so we produce individual smart plans conceptualised for each customer as win/win scenarios.

We look at the client’s needs and then make a business case for each one. We are focused on capacity building and training.

African Utility Week