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Dissecting the energy crisis in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s power supply is facing massive challenges due to a significant energy shortfall caused by a drop in output across several major facilities.

The country of Zimbabwe in southern Africa is currently undergoing an energy crisis, with deepened cuts in electricity generation.

According to our sister publication African Business Review, the drop in power supply is attributed to decreased water levels at Kariba Dam, leading to the country (and Zambia) generating around 474 MW instead of the 750 megawatts (MW) generated with optimal water levels.

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Power stations are also only generating 958 MW at a time when the daily demand for power regularly reaches 2,000 MW.

Hwange Thermal Power Station, the country’s other main plant, has also been faced with a shortfall of its own. While the facility was designed to produce 940 MW, power generation has fallen to 414MW as a result of the continued use of ageing machines and ongoing maintenance work.

Future projects at a standstill

Due to the power loss, most suburbs are going for almost 20 hours without electricity, leaving residents to live in complete darkness or resort to alternative energy sources such as solar, LP gas and generators.

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President of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) Busisa Moyo issued a warning that the energy crisis could lead to decreased production and further job losses. In fact, CZI has estimated that capacity utilization in the manufacturing sector will decrease by the close of the year, from 39 percent to about 29 percent, due in no small part to patchy access to electricity.

The anticipated Batoka Gorge power project needs investments of over USD$3 billion for the dam construction and hydro-power plant, which is expected to generate at least 2,400 MW. The government, however, lacks the capital to fund the project.

Insider perspective

The country of Zimbabwe is still reliant on an energy infrastructure from 1980, despite the country’s population close to doubling from 7.2 million to more than 14 million.

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“Zimbabwe is suffering from the same problem as South Africa, except in this case the country lacks South Africa’s economic clout and will thus be much more hard pressed when it comes to providing a long term solution to the issue,” wrote Nye Longman, African Business Review Editor. “Whether the fall in water levels at the Kariba Dam came about as a consequence of climate change remains to be seen, but problems like this should be expected if the world continues its reliance on carbon.

“The poorest and least well-equipped countries in the world will be hit hardest by the onset of global warming; this is why it is essential, at the very least, that they are prepared for this.”

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