BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
ZIMBABWEAN companies and domestic consumers are feeling the pinch of high costs of back-up power supply after the national power utility, Zesa, announced a 12-hour load-shedding schedule.
Zesa Holdings’ power distribution subsidiary, Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) announced that it will embark on a load-shedding regime while addressing power generation challenges.
ZETDC attributed the fall in power generation to challenges at the Hwange Power Station, limited imports and a dam wall rehabilitation at the Kariba hydroelectric power plant.
The Kariba dam rehabilitation exercise requires two generators to be taken out daily for 12 hours, a process that affects an economy.
The facility was recently upgraded at a cost of US$550 million.
According to statistics from Zesa’s investment vehicle, the country is generating 1 186 megawatts (MW) of electricity. This generation is against the demand of about 2 000MW.
“The power cuts are obviously disruptive to business and they came at an unexpected time because we were of the view that the power supply had stabilised. I think for the past two to three years we have seen some stability,” Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe president Israel Murefu told Weekly Digest our sister publication in a phone interview.
“It reduces capacity to produce because power is what drives industry and if there is no power you cannot produce and if you resort to generators, they are very expensive and I think there are very few companies which have got adequate solar backup to compensate for the loss of electricity. You also need electricity if you are producing at night so it’s very disruptive,” he said.
He urged Zesa to resolve the power shortfalls quickly and to keep industry informed on the load-shedding schedule.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries chief executive Sekai Kuvarika said her organisation was currently carrying out a survey to ascertain the extent of the power outages.
However, the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) said companies were feeling the pinch of power outages which are affecting production.
As a result, some companies were relying on back-up power supply such as generators and solar, forcing them to cut costs to afford mitigatory measures.
“We (businesses) are feeling it by companies slowing down recruitment, slowing down in terms of business confidence, slowing down in terms of the capacity to continue producing because, it is grinding when you are not having reliable power 24/7,” ZNCC chief executive Chris Mugaga said.
“Power comes eight hours but the other 16 hours you have no power, so how do you produce? So, members are obviously bemoaning it.”
He added: “The impact is quite palpable for most companies. If this is to continue unabated…that is when they will start thinking who can we scratch?
“Who are we supposed to recruit? And, who are we supposed to push out of the company? How can we cut costs so that at least we run on solar? Which means company costs are increasing for our members.
“Our members are not having any appetite to continue recruiting because already with a skeleton staff we have, and some losing jobs, we cannot afford to go all out to recruit.
“We still have other unintended challenges like the power you are talking about, or water.”
Consumers are also feeling the pinch of power blackouts forcing them to over-stretch their budgets.
In fact, USAid food security arm, Fewsnet says household food stocks are beginning to run low across the country confirming shrinking household incomes.
“Across the suburbs, residents are complaining of prolonged power cuts.
“At household level, most people have been forced to resort to liquefied petroleum gas, they have been forced to buy candles that they had already abandoned, some, who had not purchased the solar systems, are now being forced to prioritise that,” Harare Resident Trust director Precious Shumba said.
“But we are also hearing that refrigerated foods are getting bad and they are counting their losses. And in industry, a lot of the companies have had to kick out workers who are not being productive because of power shortages.
“The situation is really sad as people are narrating their ordeals whereby from 5am they have not had electricity after four or five hours. “The cost of living has gone up about five times in the last four months and this (power outages) continues to drain the little resources.”
He said consumers wanted Energy and Power Development minister Zhemu Soda to quickly address the matter. The power shortages come despite the country having capacity to generate 1 872MW in renewable energy with an active national renewable energy policy launched last year in March to govern the harnessing of this energy.
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This story was taken from the Weekly Digest, an AMH digital publication