Energy Minister: Zim faces power blackout, turns to Moza for help

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By Mary Taruvinga

LOW water levels at Kariba and depressed coal supplies at Hwange Thermal Power Station, are threatening to plunge the country into darkness within the next three months, Energy Minister Joram Gumbo has said.

Gumbo told journalists at a post-Cabinet briefing on Friday, that he will travel to Mozambique soon to negotiate for more supplies to avert the crisis.

“The water levels at Kariba have gone very low to the extent that we may not be able to generate power by October, if we don’t manage it well,” Gumbo said.

He added that antiquated machinery at Hwange is wreaking havoc with power generation.

“We are also having challenges at Hwange because of low coal supplies, which are caused by breakdowns of machinery that has become very old. This has now forced us as a ministry to make sure that the nation does not go dark,” the Energy Minister said.

In a bid to alleviate the problem, Gumbo said the government has licenced over 30 companies which are going to provide solar power energy.

“As a result, we have licenced over 34 companies, to provide solar power to the country. I will also be travelling to Mozambique soon to negotiate for more imports of electricity. Cabora Bassa is overflowing,” he said.

Gumbo warned load-shedding was a distinct possibility.

“Whilst we make these provisions, we must warn that before these measures take effect, we might be forced to implement load shedding,” said the Energy Minister.

While social media was awash with what is said to be a load shedding schedule, officials at State power supplier, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) this week rubbished the claims, describing the ‘schedule’ as fake.

Zimbabwe received very low rainfall during the 2018-2019 rain season leading to a crippling drought with most water bodies drying up.

Said the power utility: “Electricity generation at Kariba Power Station, will thus be reduced to an average of 358 megawatts from the planned average of 542 megawatts as a direct result of this water allocation reduction and this has led to a power supply gap.”

Zesa also said generation at Hwange, its biggest coal-fired station, as well as three smaller plants remained fragile due to aging.

Meanwhile, the utility has asked the majority to switch off all non-essential electrical gadgets to save power and to reduce power usage during peak periods from 5am to 10am and 5pm to 10pm.