12 March 2013 – In late February 2013 Zimbabwe’s power generation averaged 1,300 MW, with the bulk of the power (750 MW) coming from the relatively stable Kariba hydroelectric facility and another 500 MW being produced by the coal fired Hwange power station. The remainder was produced by functional smaller thermal power stations.
Together with imports from Cahora Bassa in Mozambique this saw supply in Zimbabwe go above 1,500 MW and meet demand, with a small surplus registered on some days.
The surplus was also partially due to success being registered on demand side management as well as power station rehabilitation programmes. However, another reason for the country having sufficient electricity was due to a declining capacity utilisation by industry. Available power in Zimbabwe has in the past fluctuated between 1,000 MW and 1,200 MW.
Zimbabweans have had to contend with load shedding over the past decade as the country’s national power utility has struggled to meet demand. Energy and power development permanent secretary Patson Mbiriri says that a stumbling block to improved power generation is a shortage of coal, despite Zimbabwe having some of the largest coal deposits on the African continent. "Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) is receiving inadequate supplies of coal. We would be producing a bit more of electricity if ZPC had more coal."
ZPC, which is the power generation arm of Zesa Holdings, is responsible for all the state-owned power stations in the country. The company once applied to mine coal and was granted concessions, which were later repossessed due to failure to commence operations.
Coal is supplied by the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange listed Hwange Colliery and two smaller collieries. "ZPC is the biggest client for all the three companies," Mbiriri says, adding that "what is evident is that the coal mining companies need recapitalisation."
Mbiriri says that that Zesa Holdings has cleared its US$100 million debt with regional power utilities and that additional locally generated power was expected to be added to the Zimbabwe grid in the next three years.