Editorial Comment: Energy authorities are sleeping on duty

The country relies heavily on Kariba for its electricity and the droughts experienced in recent years have resulted in serious power shortages.

Reports that inflows into Lake Kariba have reduced drastically, and that the lake’s water levels have fallen way below normal levels this time of the year, ring alarm bells to Zimbabweans.

The country relies heavily on Kariba for its electricity and the droughts experienced in recent years have resulted in serious power shortages.

This growing drought phenomenon and other challenges associated with continued dependence on hydroelectric power should be a wake-up call on the government to seriously consider and take greater effort at shifting focus to other sources of energy.

It is good that the government has already set its sights on renewable energy and is taking the lead, at least on paper, to promote the shift towards new world energy options. But very little government action is seen on the ground towards the realisation of this critical energy revolution, without which no national development can take place.

Currently, coal and hydroelectric power plants provide most of Zimbabwe’s electricity and Chinese firms dominate that market, but the country is hardly producing half its energy needs from this setup.

Zimbabwe’s installed power generation capacity of 2 800MW falls short of the 5 000MW that the country needs to fully support existing industry and households. We are having to import power from Zambia and Mozambique at huge cost to address this shortage.

Last year the government commissioned two new thermal power units at the Hwange power station to add 600MW to the grid, but demand still outweighs supply. The government should appreciate that both our main hydropower plant at Lake Kariba and the Hwange coal-fired power station operate at one-third of their capacity because of aging equipment and low water levels.

As a result, the country experiences as much as 12-hour blackouts at some point every year, especially this time of the year when production at Kariba falls to almost nothing. This is an issue that the government needs to look at more seriously with a view to finding a permanent solution. We can’t be doing the same things year in and year out and expect change.

The minister of Energy must lead with strategies to end the country’s power shortages. He must bite the bullet and run with bold programmes to bring an end to energy challenges that stifle economic development.

Allowing the rot that is taking place at the government-owned Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority to continue, cannot be one of the strategies. Millions of scarce American dollars are stolen through the awarding of dubious tenders to crooks that, instead of producing solar energy, they do nothing with the money except buy themselves underwear and shoes, among other such extravagant obscenities, with the people’s money.

The country cannot continue to suffer from the same problems that can be solved with resources that the country is in possession of. The government should wake up and start utilising existing solar opportunities in our sunny climate to provide industry and households with the much needed electricity.

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