Zesa clears power debt

HARARE - Power utility, Zesa Holdings has cleared its $76 million debt owed to Hydro Cahora Bassa (HCB) paving way for improved electricity supply in the country.

Since early this year, Zimbabwe has been struggling to service the Mozambique debt due to Zesa’s poor billing system and prevailing liquidity challenges in the economy.

Energy minister Elton Mangoma said the parastatal had now paid all its debt to Mozambique’s HCB as a result of strenuous efforts by all stakeholders in the country.

“For some time Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) has had problems in paying for electricity imports. However, due to a concerted effort this matter has been resolved. ZETDC has cleared its outstanding arrears with Mozambique and as of this month is now current with all utilities,” he said.

Early this year, Zesa got $40 million from two local platinum-mining companies, Mimosa and Zimplats and the money was credited to their accounts as pre-payment for electricity.

The power utility had tried to mobilise the funds through massive disconnections, but the response from domestic and commercial electricity consumers, who owe the company in excess of $550 million, failed to address the matter.

Mangoma told delegates attending the 33rd Southern African Power Pool (Sapp) executive meeting hosted by Zesa last week that a significant reason for ZETDC’s financial troubles has been customer revenue collections.

“In order to manage this situation, ZETDC has embarked on a programme to replace standard post-paid meters with pre-paid meters,” he said. “This exercise started very recently and already 32 000 meters have been installed. The overall project to install 600 000 pre-paid or smart meters should be completed within eight months’ time.”

Mangoma also noted that Zimbabwe is not the only country experiencing power shortages as the whole Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region is currently in a generation deficit that will continue until 2015.

“Shortage of power has had an unfavourable impact on Sadc economic growth. Projected regional economic growths will not be realised unless power problems are resolved in the next few years.

I would therefore urge Sapp to implement the projects that have been planned by member states and that will steer the region into economic growth and prosperity,” he said.

Last year Sapp commissioned 1 230 megawatts of additional generation and a further 1 300 megawatts will be commissioned this year. A number of generation projects are also under construction in various Sadc countries that will bring 20 000 megawatts of new generation capacity over the next five years.

A number of demand-side management programmes are being implemented in Sapp to assist with power shortages. These programmes include the replacement of incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps, the installation of water geysers and also control of hot water loads.

To date, 2 305 megawatts have been saved from these initiatives.

The energy minister said as part of Sapp’s compact fluorescent lamp initiative, Zimbabwe is in the process of replacing five million incandescent light bulbs in homes and institutions around the country.

This is expected to save the country 180 megawatts of power. “So far one million compact fluorescent lamps have been installed and the exercise should be complete by year end,” he said.

“On a similar note, Phase one of our project to refurbishing hot water management systems in Harare and Bulawayo should lead to a power saving of 25 megawatts by the end of 2012. - John Kachembere

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