14 June 2014

Zimbabwe: World Cup - Zesa Plays a Blinder

Photo: The Vanguard
Fifa president, Sepp Blatter.

POWER utility, ZESA, last week issued a new load shedding schedule that will leave consumers without power for eight hours a day.

The new schedule comes at a time when large numbers of football-loving Zimbabweans are expected to be glued to TVs for the World Cup Finals in Brazil.

Zimbabwe has struggled with chronic power supply problems and ZESA's statement shows that the shortages will not be solved anytime soon.

The country needs 1,800 to 2,400 megawatts of power a year but is capable of producing 1,200 megawatts at most.

"To this end, ZESA has put in place measures to boost power generation. In spite of the measures, power supply shortfalls will still be experienced," ZESA subsidiary Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company said.

According to the schedule, consumers will either be shed from 5 am to 1 pm or from 1 pm to 9 pm on given days.

Essential services that include major referral hospitals, water and sewer installations, airports, major central business districts will be spared from load shedding.

Winter is usually high time for power cuts in Zimbabwe as consumption surges. But this year's winter blackouts coincide with the FIFA World Cup.

Football is Zimbabweans' favourite sport. Many with access to TVs would have been looking forward to viewing the games in Brazil real time.

Although some games will be missed because of the time lag anyway, many other games will be missed because they fall within the shedding time.

Pubs powered by generators are expected to have brisk business instead.

Zimbabwe, like most of the countries in southern Africa, has a serious power deficit which becomes more pronounced during winter.

ZESA imports some power, albeit not enough, largely from Mozambique's Hydroelectrica de Cahora Bassa to cushion the deficit.

Lack of investment in power generation, especially during the first decade following the turn of the century, has left the country in a severe power crisis.

The government has grand plans to refurbish Hwange thermal power station and expand the Kariba South hydroelectric power station to boost supplies but much depends on the availability of funds.

Apart from the major works envisaged for Hwange and Kariba, the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority has licensed a number of independent power producers who are still to start developing their projects as they mobilize resources.

According to the government's five-year economic blueprint, the energy sector alone requires more than US$10 billion for rehabilitation and expansion.


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