10 September 2018

Zimbabwe: Gumbo to Broaden Energy Access

Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo, has pledged to ensure the broadening of energy access, clamping down on illegal fuel dealers and considering farmers' pleas for a reduced tariff. Dr Gumbo exclusively said this to The Herald Business yesterday after the swearing-in of Cabinet ministers, their deputies and Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs at State House in Harare.

"I have just been appointed and I still need to go to the office to be briefed by staff who are there and also to get a briefing from the former minister (Ambassador Simon Khaya-Moyo)," said Dr Gumbo.

"But as a former Cabinet minister, what I know about the Ministry of Energy and Power (Development) is that it is a very crucial and critical ministry in that if it is not being driven properly, it can bring the country to a halt.

"We are talking about fuel, we are talking about electric power. So with the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) stating that by 2030 we should be a middle income country, I look forward at trying to make sure that we improve very much in those sectors."

Dr Gumbo said there has "always been a cry from farmers" that the electricity tariff they are getting is high, and would try to address that.

The average tariff is USc9,86 per kilowatt hour while the manufacturing sector's peak tariff is 13c per kWh.

Off-peak, the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), sells power at 4c per kWh, and has been encouraging both farmers and industrialists to use electricity at night and enjoy lower costs.

Using power at night also implies that electricity that would have been generated does not go to waste considering that the power cannot be stored for future use.

The Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), ZESA Holdings' electricity generations arm, is understood to be stopping some units at Kariba South Power Station at night so that no energy is generated and lost.

Dr Gumbo also said he would attend to challenges of lack of transformers, particularly at very critical institutions like hospitals, and at schools where Government is introducing ICTs in sync with technological developments.

Most schools in the rural areas do not have electricity despite efforts by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), while others had transformer faults as far back as 2016, crippling their ICT departments.

ZESA recently said it needs to replace up to 4 000 transformers, of which the cheapest costs about $5 000.

Said Dr Gumbo: "So those are some of the areas to look forward to, but there are also general complaints from the public that there are illegal dealers of fuel, and that has got to be clamped down because it's also depriving the nation of the necessary resources that should come into the fiscus.

"I think there are also challenges (in the ministry) but I think it's exciting that when there are challenges you have to tackle them. So I hope I will try my best."

Dr Gumbo, who was Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development in the previous Government, joins the Ministry of Energy at a time when it is ceased with efforts to boost power generation in the country.

Work to expand Hwange Thermal Power Station by adding units 7 and 8 which will generate a combined 600MW, started on August 1.

The expansion project is expected to be concluded in 36 months.

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