Pride Mahlangu, Business Reporter
THE country’s electricity supply has improved in the past few weeks with consumers confirming the reduction in the power outages.
While complaining about what they view as “steep” charges, following an upward review of power tariffs last week, individual consumers and corporates have said they are now experiencing slight relief from prolonged power cuts of up to 16 hours a day that dominated year 2019.
The improvement in supplies means that businesses now have more productive hours and reduces costs incurred in sourcing alternative power such as generators.
As of yesterday, the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) indicated that existing power stations were generating a combined 694MW, slightly above previous months, with Kariba Hydro and Hwange Power Stations increasing production.
The combined output, however, remains far below the national demand for power estimated at above 1 500MW and much lower than installed capacity of above 2 000MW. A combination of reduced water levels due to climate change and ageing equipment in major thermal stations, hampered adequate power generation.
According to the ZPC daily generation update, Kariba is generating 372MW, Hwange 305MW while Munyati is producing 17MW. Bulawayo and Harare Thermal Power are off the grid.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) vice president, Mr Joseph Gunda, said the drop in outages was real.
“We notice that in both domestic and industry there has been some kind of improvement. But I suppose it’s a result of the hike in tariffs. Perhaps Zesa is generating a lot of revenue because of that,” he said.
“The hike in tariffs for uninterrupted supply of power is good for the industry but its magnitude was a bit on the high side. It could have been discussed and there should have been input from industry.”
Mr Gunda, who is also general manager for General Beltings, said while the power utility seeks to improve supplies, there has to be consideration on the “cost effect” of tariff reviews.
“If Zesa increases tariffs, we as well increase charges. Who can absorb them, the industry cannot absorb them? So, they also have to factor all those things into our production processes,” he said.
Last week Zesa increased electricity tariffs by 19,02 percent from 41c/kwh to 49c/kwh, citing the upward movement in exchange rates and inflationary pressures at macro-economic level. The new cost means 50kw/hr will now cost $24,50. The power utility is already implementing a stepped prepayment tariff system, which penalises those who consume more power.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) Matabeleland regional chairman, Mr Golden Muoni, said the supply side has shifted for the better but industry still needs more.
“We see a slight improvement in power supply, because of some improvement in power generation. The availability of power is that sometimes it’s there in the morning until the end of the day, but not all of the days where you have that,” he said.
“We are saying it is better than the last quarter of 2019 where there was no guarantee of production time, which was lost. You could maybe get four or five hours of production time,” he said.
Bulawayo Chamber of Small to Medium Enterprises chairperson, Mr Energy Majazi, said that electricity supply has greatly improved their operations.
“Power is now available most of the times, but we are not saying that Zesa is perfect. At times we may not have it, but it is better than in the past, we realise that now we go for days without power cuts,” he said.
“The situation has improved a lot and we are grateful and hope this status will remain.”
The business leaders said the recent increase in power tariff has added a burden in their operations. “The challenge comes on the tariff side, as you know SMEs don’t have their own space and depend on property owners.
“So, we get higher bills there and they determine how much SMEs should pay. This is hard for us,” said Mr Majazi.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) regional manager, Mr Comfort Muchekeza said while the electricity situation had slightly improved, more needs to be done to ensure adequate supplies.
He urged consumers to self-regulate when using of power due to high tariffs. While Zesa officials could not be reach for comment, the Zambezi River Authority recently reported that water levels at Lake Kariba had increased, giving impetus for improved generation capacity. The giant power station has a combined 1 050MW capacity following the commissioning of Kariba South units. — @pridesinstinctz