11 January 2008 – A parliamentary committee this week recommended that Zesa Holdings lease out three of its idle power stations to private power producers.

This comes as power outages in Zimbabwe have increased after Mozambique cut off power supplies from Cahora Basa.

"Government should lease out small thermals – Munyati, Harare and Bulawayo to companies, which are able to run them. This will in some way give a respite to industries and businesses in the nearby vicinity," a report by the parliamentary committee recommended.

Businesses are operating at less than 30% capacity due to load shedding schedules, with mines only operating for four hours a day.

The parliamentary committee, chaired by Joe Gabuza, has held that Zesa’s failure to meet its debts with regional electricity utilities is responsible for the current situation.

"The situation is making it difficult for companies to plan because disruptions usually occur without notice. The committee was deeply worried by the fact that most of these sectors play a key role in the generation of foreign currency," it said.

"Social gatherings and other activities have been affected by power disruptions. It has become difficult for ordinary households to plan their activities, such as cooking. Most families are spending more money looking for alternative sources of energy," the report continues.

Zimbabwe currently owes some US$42 million to various regional power suppliers, including Hydro Cahora Bassa (HCB) of Mozambique. It is reported that Zimbabwe owes Mozambique US$26 million for outstanding electricity debt.

Zimbabwe is currently generating 980MW with a peak demand of 1 800MW in the summer and a maximum 2 200MW in winter.

"We hope to resolve our issues with the supplier…and have recently paid $10 million," said Mr Ben Rafemoyo, chief executive of state-owned power company Zesa Holdings

"We hope, sooner, rather than later, we’d be restored."

He confirmed that Eskom had stopped supplying Zesa with power in June 2007, but said this was not due to unpaid debts.

"At the moment, they (Eskom) have their own challenges in their backyard and haven’t been able to supply since June, but we are current as far as our account with them is concerned."

Hwange

The Hwange power station is
currently undergoing a
US$40 million refurbishment

Rafemoyo is confident however that the refurbishment of Hwange power station will help to alleviate some of the current supply restrictions.

"Once we complete the refurbishment, all our six units at Hwange will have a new lease of life and we expect generation capacity to improve from 250 megawatts to 780 megawatts.

"We hope to achieve that level of production by August or September," he said, referring to the US$40 million refurbishment project undertaken in conjunction with Namibia’s Nampower.