Zim spends US$134, 5 million on electricity imports  

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By Alois Vinga

A latest report by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) revealed Zimbabwe spent US$134, 5 million on electricity imports during the first eight months of the year amid predictions of looming power cuts in the near future.

ZIMCODD’s monthly economic review for September 2023 reveals that a significant amount of foreign currency was spent on electricity imports.

“Zimbabwe imported electrical energy worth US$10.3 million in August 2023, a slight decline from US$10.4 million in July 2023.

“Cumulatively, the nation spent US$134.5 million on electrical energy imports in the first eight (8) months of 2023, about 23.2% higher than US$109.2 million spent in the same period in 2022,” the report said.

The big jump in electricity imports so far in 2023 is however attributed to the prolonged electricity load-shedding schedules experienced in the first half of the year (1HY23) largely powered by low Kariba Dam levels and frequent breakdown of aging thermal production plants.

While the report acknowledges that in the second half (2HY23), electricity supply had relatively improved owing to the completion and commissioning of two (2) new US$1,5 billion Hwange thermal plants with a combined installed capacity of 600MW, it is quick to warn that load shedding is almost inevitable.

“In September 2023 electricity load-shedding peaked across the country, an occurrence that is expected to hold in the coming months due to increased technical challenges associated with the operation of aged thermal units (Hwange Unit 1-6) coupled with rising electricity debt owed to the regional power pool.

“Also, Kariba live-water levels are falling fast at a time when many parts of the SADC region are expected to receive normal to below-normal in the 2023/24 season. This will significantly subdue production at the nation’s sole publicly-owned hydro plant,” the report said.

But a highly placed source at the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) told that the coming on board of Hwange Thermal Power Station is a buffer that will ease the challenges at Kariba.

“Now that we have Hwange on board the possibility of sliding back to the old days of choking power cuts is impossible. Of course, the only challenge is that there are still some faulty generators at Hwange which are working on an on-and-off basis.

“Currently because of the low water levels on the back of an anticipated drought Kariba will be greatly affected but we don’t expect crippling power cuts as was the case in the first half of the year,” he said.