Why Zimbabwe is in the dark and what it is doing about it

Why Zimbabwe is in the dark and what it is doing about it

A perfect storm of breakdowns at Hwange’s aged power plants, failure of a unit at Kariba, and a fire that took out transmission lines caused the worst outages in years this week, the Energy ministry says.

Gloria Magombo, permanent secretary in the ministry, has given a briefing to the press on why power cuts dramatically worsened this week, and what the government is doing about it in the short and long term.

The current round of power cuts may ease over the coming days, she says. In the long term, “we will keep limping”, admits Magombo, while major projects by government and private players are being completed.

We summarise her remarks below:

What happened?

We had lost a number of units at Hwange, which were due to tube leaks. These are occurrences which we have had over the past couple of months, due to the age of the equipment. We have also had challenges at Kariba and we have restored one of the units back into service.

The situation was exaggerated on the 27th when we had a system fault which took the whole system out, an incident that lasted about four-and-half hours. Within that period, an event initiated by a bush fire on the Alaska-Warren line number 2 took out the line. Consequently, a number of other lines were lost, including the line carrying imports.

What’s being done in the near term?

We managed to restore all seven units in Kariba within four and a half hours, together with the power from imports and IPPs. For Hwange, units 3 and 4 have started firing. By end of day (Wednesday) we had two units at Hwange back in service, with about 245MW added to the grid.

This caused serious load shedding because the supply gap was higher than normal. We’re working on another two units at Hwange. By Friday we’ll have four units at Hwange, giving us nearly 400MW, which should significantly improve the power supply situation.

The target is to make sure that all the units which are out now – except for Unit 5, which has gone under major overhaul, so that we start rehabilitating it for the long term – will be back in service and reduce the supply gap. We had a 245MW supply gap this morning, so if I bring in 160MW tomorrow, that gap closes further.

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