Routine maintenance
Routine maintenance is needed to increase the reliability of Zimbabwe’s generation fleet.

In Zimbabwe, the country’s two largest electricity generation plants commenced their annual routine maintenance on Tuesday, reported Reuters Africa.

The two power stations set for routine maintenance are Hwange, a coal-fired station in the west, and the Kariba hydro plant in the north, which jointly produce 90% of Zimbabwe’s power.

This has led to an increase in power cuts in the southern African nation, the state-owned utility said.

Zimbabwe produces approximately 1,345MW, which is half its peak demand. This forces local industries to use costly diesel generators to keep operations running.

Planned routine maintenance

The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) said Hwange would undergo routine maintenance until 7 October. Whereas Kariba, which has cut back on generation due to low water levels, would see its maintenance stretch to 28 January 2016.

“Consumers will experience suppressed power supplies until generation is brought back to normal levels”, ZESA said in a statement.

Hwange has a capacity of 920MW but ageing and frequent breakdown of equipment has kept its production at around 496MW.

Zimbabwe Power Company, ZESA’s subsidiary, last week said it would cut electricity generation by a third to 475MW at Kariba due to low dam water levels.

Importing electricity?

ZESA said it would import electricity from neighbouring countries should capacity be available.

Since many of Zimbabwe’s neighbours, including South Africa and Zambia, are also grappling with power supply shortages of their own, this is unlikely to occur.

In South Africa, power utility Eskom has met the country’s electricity demand for over three weeks, resulting in no load shedding for 24 consecutive days, as of Tuesday.

However, Koeberg Unit 2 commenced a scheduled refueling and routine maintenance outage on Monday, and is expected to return to service mid-December 2015.

Investment in coal, mining and cement

In further news, Nigerian businessman Aliko Dangote said on Monday that he planned mining and power generation projects in Zimbabwe as well as to set up a large cement factory.

Dangote, who met with President Robert Mugabe in Harare, said “We had a very, very good meeting with the president and I told him that we have already decided to invest in three areas, one is power, second one is cement and third one is coal.”

He stated that the investment would be close to $400m on the cement plant, which will produce a million and half tons of cement a year, making it the biggest in the country.

Dangote is the head and founder of multi-billion dollar Dangote Group, which has interests including cement production in several African countries.

The company also has major oil, gas, food and real estate investments across the continent.