Partner foreign energy investors — Experts

HARARE - Zimbabwe should partner foreign investors in its energy sector to ease electricity shortages in the country, experts say.

Professor Anton Eberhard, from the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, said the electricity challenges faced by Zimbabwe are not unique as the whole of the southern African region is also experiencing power cuts.

“Zimbabwe has to accelerate foreign investments into the sector if the country is to adequately address its rising demand. Most countries in the region such as South Africa and DRC which used to export electricity in the past few years have since stopped due to increasing demands in their own back yard,” he said.

For decades, Zimbabwe’s energy sector has been in decline, undermined by lack of new investments, poor maintenance, low funding from Treasury and a huge import debt burden, as well as an estimated at $750 million, owed by customers to power provider ? Zesa Holdings.

Zimbabwe’s five power stations are currently producing approximately 1200MW out of the national requirements of 2000MW.

Consequently, chronic power outages are a common feature in the country, negatively impacting on business and household needs.

Eberhard ? who was part of a regional Peer Learning Network that was in the country this week to review works of the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) ? also noted that local electricity tariffs need to be revised upwards to meet regional standards.

“Electricity tariffs in Zimbabwe, which are below $0,09, are getting close to cost reflective levels of between $0,10 and $0,14 which are prevalent in the region,” he said.

Although Zimbabwe has in the past two years attracted over 12 Independent Power Producers (IPP) who are keen to invest in various electricity generating projects but economic experts say a stumbling block has been low power tariffs of $0,8 per kilowatt hour ? against a regional average of $0,13.

In March this year Zera joined a select group of electricity regulators in the second phase of an initiative of the management programme in infrastructure reform and regulation at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business.

The initiative ? known as Peer Learning Network ? comprises institutions from Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The mandate of these institutions includes that of regulating the electricity supply in their respective countries.

Joseph Kapika, coordinator for African Electricity Regulator, said the aim of the Peer Learning Network was to enhance regulatory effectiveness and impact across the African continent.

“As most of the infrastructure regulatory institutions across Africa have now been in existence for several years, this is an opportune time to review and assess experiences and performance. We also aim to use such reviews as a basis for sharing knowledge and as an aid in the shaping of future infrastructure policy across the continent,” he said.

“The potential benefits of this are significant given the strong link between infrastructure and Africa’s ever attendant developmental imperatives,” noted Kapika.

 

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