UPDATE – Mozambique resumes hydropower supply to Zimbabwe

Mozambique’s information agency reports the operators of Mozambique’s 2,040-MW Cahora Bassa hydroelectric project have resumed supply of electricity to Zimbabwe, once its economically strapped neighbor made a payment toward its electricity debt.

Earlier in the month, Zimbabwe, which is generating only half the electricity it needs, was cut off by its major supplier, Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), due to unpaid debts. (HNN 1/14/08)

Agencia de Informacion de Mocambique (AIM) said HCB adviser Julio Pondeca confirmed that Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) paid US$10 million of its US$18.7 million debt and promised to pay the remainder, with the backing of the Zimbabwe government. However, another US$4 million is to come due at the end of January, Pondeca said.

A year ago Zimbabwe was producing nearly two-thirds of its electricity needs but supply has dropped sharply, worsening problems arising from the world’s highest inflation, rising poverty, and food and fuel shortages. (HNN 1/10/08)

Ben Rafemoyo, chief executive of the state-owned ZESA Holdings, said foreign currency shortages, unpaid debts, and obsolete equipment had led to a larger power deficit.

He said the Kariba hydroelectric plant, on the northeastern border with Zambia, could generate about 730 MW, while the coal-fired Hwange power station in western Zimbabwe generated an average of 250 MW. (HNN 11/12/07)

“That gives a total of 980 MW, against (daily) demand of about 1,800 MW for the current summer season,� Rafemoyo said. �Demand often rises to about 2,200 MW over the peak winter period.”

He said, while Zimbabwe was importing some power from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Societe Nationale d’Electricite, it also owed that company US$5 million. Rafemoyo said South Africa’s Eskom, the biggest power utility in southern Africa, had stopped supplying electricity to Zimbabwe last June, but this was not because of unpaid debts.

“At the moment, they (Eskom) have their own challenges in their backyard and haven’t been able to supply since June, but we are current as far as our account with them is concerned.”

Rafemoyo said Zimbabwe would soon benefit from the refurbishment of its plants in Hwange under a US$40 million deal signed with Namibia’s Nampower. As part of the deal, Zesa would export power to Namibia at a subsidized price.

“Once we complete the refurbishment, all our six units at Hwange will have a new lease of life and we expect generation capacity to improve from 250 MW to 780 MW,” Rafemoyo said. “We hope to achieve that level of production by August or September.”

Long-term projects to expand power plants at Kariba and Hwange, to ensure Zimbabwe’s self-sufficiency in electricity supplies, would require huge investments totaling US$900 million, he added.

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