The coal crisis is holding back electricity production


By Staff Reporter

Acute coal shortages shut down state-owned thermal power stations for 142 days in the first quarter of this year, causing a sharp drop in output, the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) said.

In a quarterly review covering the first three months of 2022, ZPC, a unit of electric utility Zesa Holdings, said small thermal plants only contributed 1% of total electricity generation. during the period.

Zimbabwe has four thermal power stations, namely Hwange, Bulawayo, Munyati and Harare.

Hwange Power Station is the largest thermal power station.

ZPC did not disclose why the country has experienced coal shortages.

But in recent years, local miners have struggled to keep up with demand for a variety of reasons.

ZPC said power plants in Bulawayo, Harare and Munyati missed their quarterly output target of 47.50 gigawatt hours (GWh) by 45.17%.

However, the country exceeded its total quarterly power generation target by 18.55% thanks to improved reliability and optimization of the Hwange thermal power plant, as well as increased production at the Kariba hydroelectric plant.

“Small thermal power plants missed their target which was set at 47.50 GWh by 45.17% due to lack of coal stocks and low plant availability, which led to the closure of plants for a total of 142 days in the quarter,” ZPC said in its first quarter update.

Over the years, due to the aging of plant equipment, small thermal plants have lost their generation capacity, which has seen their production drop to zero on certain days due to operational constraints.

ZPC said 2022 started well with a notable improvement in production in the first quarter.

“The quarterly target, which was set at 1885.30 GWh, was exceeded by 18.55%.

“This is mainly attributed to improved reliability and plant optimization at Hwange, as well as increased production at the Kariba hydropower plant to meet high system demand,” partly indicates the update.

“Hwange generated four units for most of the quarter, while Kariba’s eight units were available for peak production most days.”

Kariba Power Plant contributed 70% of the total energy production during the period considered, of which 4% was exported to NamPower.

Hwange Power Station, which is undergoing a $1.5 billion expansion program, contributed 29% of the total, the report noted.

“The Kariba Power Plant contributed more than expected as it was scaled up to meet high system demand and compensate for low output from small thermal plants,” ZPC said.

Although the Hwange 7 and 8 expansion project experienced delays mainly caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, ZPC said the project is proceeding smoothly and it is on track to commission the unit. 7 at the end of November this year, while Unit 8 is expected to feed the grid in April 2023.

The project is currently 83% complete, ZPC said.

He said construction of a second pipeline and upgrading of the existing Deka pumping station began in 2021.

It is expected to be completed by the end of March 2023.

The $48 million project is being implemented alongside the Hwange Units 7 and 8 expansion project and is expected to address the persistent water supply problem at Hwange Power Station, the largest coal-fired power plant in the country. country.

The ZPC said plans for resupply of the Bulawayo power station were on track and the stalemate over ownership issues between it and the Bulawayo City Council had been escalated to the Ministry of Local Government, Works authorities and National Housing for assistance.

The company said it is moving towards using renewable energy for power generation to achieve zero environmental damage.

Some of the projects on the cards include Gairezi Hydroelectric Power Station and Batoka Gorge Hydroelectric Project.

The Batoka project, which is being jointly developed by the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe through the Zambezi River Authority, has a capacity of 1,200 MW.

Construction costs were estimated at around US$2.3 billion.

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