ZIMBABWE looks set for its worst power situation this year triggered by ongoing annual maintenance of main power stations that have knocked out more than a half of the country's generation capacity.
The nationwide power cuts are already having severe negative implications on the already squeezed industry and it is now being feared the situation could threaten the survival of struggling firms.
Residents countrywide have not been spared either, with many people enduring full day power cuts and this has forced households, industry and commerce to invest in expensive alternative sources such as generators.
Zesa Holdings generation unit, Zimbabwe Power Company said the maintenance at Kariba and Hwange power stations would only be completed in February 2014. Kariba and Hwange have dependable capacity of 750 megawatts and 700MW respectively, but are currently averaging 500MW and 380 MW.
Imports, mainly from Mozambique are ranging between 50MW and 300MW, depending on the source peak periods. Zimbabwe experienced over 17 percent deficit on its requirements in the eight months to August 2013.
And the current output falls far short of the country's electricity requirement of 2 200MW at peak periods of demand usually experienced in the morning and evening, which is balanced through load shedding.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president Mr Hlanganiso Matangaidze expressed concern over the increase in loadshedding over the past few weeks saying it was detrimental to industry.
"At the moment only a few companies are operational as most companies closed shop due to operational challenges while capacity utilisation is very low," he said.
"Increased load shedding is therefore a threat to the survival of those companies and we believe the power utility should at least spare industry from increased load shedding."
He added that increased load shedding was "suicidal" towards increasing industry's capacity utilisation.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Mr Charles Msipa bemoaned the increase in load shedding saying it has forced companies to run on generators for long hours pushing up operational costs.
"It is very bad we are running generators the whole day and this obviously comes with exorbitant operational costs," he said. CZI is the country's largest industry lobby group.
Yesterday, the power utility reminded consumers that the current increase in loadshedding, which is outside the published schedule as previously advertised, was due to statutory annual maintenance at Hwange and Kariba Power Stations and some unplanned outages at Hwange.
The crippling power cuts deficit yesterday interrupted the flow of business of some service providers such as the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and Zimpost.
However, Government is vigorously working on expanding Hwange Thermal Power Station units 7 and 8 and Kariba South Hydro Power Station for an additional 900MW, which is estimated to take up to 42 months. China Machinery and Energy Corporation and Sino Hydro will undertake the expansions.