Accelerating The Pace Of Power Development Is Imperative
The latest review of the Zimbabwean economy by the World Bank produced the good news that it is growing year-in and year-out, that the economic and fiscal policies of the Government are largely the right ones, and that in the context of Southern Africa our growth is number one.
But, amid all the congratulations, there was one unpleasant statistic, that electricity shortages mean that our Gross Domestic Product is around 6,1 percent lower than it would otherwise be. That is a lot and it is likely to get worse as growth slows because new mines, factories and other productive development is limited by power shortages.
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Already we are close on 18 months behind where we should be at present rates of growth and that gap is likely to widen unless we start moving quickly.
At present we have three inputs to the shortage. First Kariba South cannot operate at anything like its historic capacity, let alone its present upgraded capacity, simply because Zambezi flows into the lake are well below the historic averages.
While Zimbabwe and Zambia had above average rainfall last season, they between them provide little over 20 percent of Kariba inflows; the rest comes from Angola and that country had below average rainfall. This season will see less rain in all probability and so lower inflows, and so small rations of water for the two power stations.
Secondly the six units at Hwange Thermal commissioned during the 1980s were never fully maintained and in any case have large chunks of equipment way past their expiry date.
There is a perfectly decent plan to rehabilitate each of the six units, which involves in some cases the complete replacement of large chunks of machinery, but this is at best a two-year programme to what will effectively double output.
The third problem is easily the most temporary, the time it is taking to bring the two new 300MW units at Hwange Thermal into continuous operation. Both Units 7 and 8 have been switched on, and have spent times feeding the grid. The final stage of commissioning was to bring them down and check everything out. Sometime next month both should be back on grid and staying there.
But even with these two units, and the more gradual return to full output of the earlier units at Hwange, we are going to be short of power so we need to be getting ready to build the net power stations. And we need to know what to build.