The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) has said on Sunday that it has begun rolling out daily 12-hour power cuts due to limited generation at its thermal plant and further constraints placed on the Southern African country’s grid from ongoing repairs on the dam at the Kariba Hydro Power Station.
In an emailed statement seen by Bloomberg, the ZETDC said it was “…experiencing a power shortfall due to generation constraints at Hwange Power Station, limited imports and a program of dam wall rehabilitation at Kariba.”
According to the utility, the power shortfall is being managed through daily 12-hour rotational load shedding in order to “balance the power supply available and the connected load.”
Zimbabwe’s Hwange Thermal Power Station is the country’s largest, with an installed capacity to produce 920 megawatts. The station suffers frequent breakdowns due to its aging equipment, and most undergo repairs often. There are current expansion efforts in place at the station, which is in western Zimbabwe, to add a further 600 megawatts to its generation.
The Kariba Dam and hydroelectric power station is undergoing a $294-million repair project which is being financed by the African Development Bank, World Bank, as well as the government of Sweden, and the European Union. The Kariba Dam impounds the Zambezi river and reportedly cost around $480-million to build.
Zimbabwe has an installed capacity of 2,100 megawatts but generates 1,200 to 1,300 megawatts on average with any shortfall being met through imports.
Africa’s Power Crisis
Other countries in Africa have struggled to meet the modern power demands of their populations, usually due to legacy equipment and draconian power regulations.
South Africa often undergoes rotational load shedding as the country’s state-owned power utility Eskom struggles to maintain the country’s highly vulnerable grid through failing power units and poor management decisions.
Power cuts in Nigeria are also a regular occurrence. Data from the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) shows that from 2013 to 2020, the national grid system failed 84 times and partially collapsed 43 times.
Nigeria generates most of its power through its vast supply of gas which is used to fuel more than 80% of power generation capacity in Africa’s most populous country.
Despite the fact that Nigeria has the largest gas reserves in Africa, and all the major progress achieved in the last few years, the country’s gas infrastructure development and maintenance remain insufficient.
This situation combined with infrastructure sabotage results in the country suffering from insufficient pipeline capacity and a lack of pipeline connections, which in turn results in sweeping power outages.