By Robert Tapfumaneyi
AGING infrastructure and equipment are major contributors to Zimbabwe’s continuing electricity supply problems a senior official at the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) has said.
Bernard Chizwengeya the parastatal’s business development manager told NewZimbabwe.com that there are also overdue maintenance procedures required on most infrastructure some dating back to six years.
“Munyati Power Station was built in 1946 with an installed capacity of 120, Harare Power Station was installed in 1947 with capacity to generate 75 MW now it has shut down waiting re powering and Bulawayo Power Station commissioned between 1947 with an installed capacity of 120 megawatts,” Chizengeya said.
“I have mentioned the commissioning dates of thermal power station because it has a life span of 35 years so Bulawayo, Harare and Munyati Power Stations has so far exceeded.”
He added; “I think there are in their 70s if it was human being you can imagine, so two 35 years span is what we have gone through hence the problem we are experiencing is low generation on the small thermals.”
Zimbabwe is facing its greatest power challenges since majority rule 39 years ago due to poor maintenance and lack of investment in infrastructure with Kariba Dam the country biggest hydro-power supplier facing closure due to water levels attributed to climate change.
Chizengeya said the situation is the same at coal fired Hwange Power Station (Unit 1to 6) which were installed with a generation capacity of 220MW but have since dropped to about 170MW production.
“We had a fault on Unit 6 we had done a major overhaul in 2017 and unfortunately when we took it out, a separate problem developed and indications are that it may take about eight months to repair,” he said.
“The key constraints at Hwange are overdue major overhauls, Unit 3 is over due by six years, we are supposed to do major overhaul on each Unit after every five years, Unit One (4 years), Unit 5 with one month due.”
The unavailability of spare parts due to foreign currency shortage has also been identified as a major handicap.
“We have inadequacy of spare parts and raw materials, we do not manufacture turbines, we do not manufacture generators in Zimbabwe but we contract outsiders and we do not have adequate foreign currency.
“Typical example Unit 6 failed in March and we needed about 3.3 million Euros and we only got a paltry 481 Euros which only helps in dismantling. We are still looking for the rest of the foreign currency.
“So you can see ripple effects, customers are not paying ZETDC, ZPC is producing power selling to ZETDC and ZETDC to customers who intend are not paying,” the senior official said.
“So how do we do the maintenance, how do we buy the spares parts, if we do not have the money? And also these plants use the most treated water, the water we actually drink is less stringent than the water we use in put in these broilers so you are also need chemicals.”
Government has had to resort to begging neighbouring countries for fresh supplies at very difficult conditions including being forced to pay US$870 000 weekly to South Africa’s Eskom. Negotiations with Mozambique’s Hydro-Cabora Bassa are underway.