Uninterrupted Power and Energy Supply key enabler to investment

Uninterrupted Power and Energy Supply key enabler to investment

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By Calvin Manika

Petros Chauke starts his business around 3 am in the Central Business District of Harare as he starts to heat the ovens to make bread. Chauke operates a small to medium bakery enterprise for the past three years.

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Speaking to the Entrepreneurial Magazine he says, despite the hike in prices of raw materials like flour, the major challenge he is facing is power cuts.

“For the past months I have to wake up early and start work, in case the electricity is gone I will be able to work. Electricity is erratic and we have rentals, bills and workers to pay, so we have adopted new strategies to cope with the situation,” Chauke says.

The Zimbabwe electricity situation is currently characterised by load shedding and supply preference to businesses especially the Central Business District (CBD). But, of late businesses are being affected.

Last month ZESA announced that, the country erratic power supply is due to some maintenance at the Hwange Power Station, challenges faced by Eskom (SA) to import more electricity and the preference for wheat farming. Chauke is not the only one affected but the majority of companies including the biggest enterprises.

Big companies have resorted to automatic diesel generators for power back up as their businesses need to be open for clients throughout the day. Generators at the shop verandahs are now a common sight, a development which local entrepreneurs say, it can affect the country’s drive in investment attraction.

“We must know that power is a key enabler to the daily activities of our businesses. Without it, it means loss of profits and an addition to overhead costs. At the time we need investors, we must be seen fixing power challenges,” says Gerald Pfaira, a local entrepreneur.

Zimbabwe investment policy assures potential investors of uninterrupted power supply, an efficient business environment which seeks to achieve a win-win situation for both the government and the investor. For the past two years’ investors have been prospecting and commissioning in manufacturing, construction and mining businesses.

Despite the construction of various power plants of solar and thermal, the energy put in the national grid is not sufficient to cater for everyone. Zimbabwe hinges its hopes on the construction of stages 7 and 8 at the coal powered Hwange Power Station which is nearing completion.

The project, a joint venture of Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) and Sino Hydro is anticipated to add 600 megawatts in the national grid. In the past three years, the government’s flagship programme was affected by the COVID 19 pandemic which stalled the construction.

Hwange Power Station currently is supposed to supply 920 megawatts but due to aging machinery and costly maintenance it is operating below its expected installed capacity.

Worldwide, most power sector growth has occurred among the variable renewable energy technologies – wind power and solar PV raising concerns about potential challenges of integrating large shares of variable generation into existing power systems.

Energy experts say certain enabling technologies along with improvements in energy infrastructure, energy markets and related institutional frameworks can serve two synergistic purposes.

“Creating new conduits for renewable energy to reach all end-use sectors, and facilitating the successful integration of ever-growing shares of variable renewable electricity generation. Enabling technologies can take many forms,” says Energy Supply and Investment Outlook (ESIO).

Enabling technologies comprise both the physical infrastructure and the automation technology required to support greater systems integration, data collection and dissemination of system resources, and effective and efficient demand response. This has been hailed to enhance the function and efficiency of energy systems and thereby facilitate greater deployment and use of renewable energy.

Zimbabwe relies on thermal and hydroelectric power. In areas and businesses affected by power cuts, commercial and communications disruptions are possible until technicians fully restore electrical service. Traffic disruptions and longer driving times have been occurring during these periods due to malfunctioning traffic signals.

“Power outages could also result in the temporary unavailability of essential services, such as hospitals, ATMs, and petrol stations. Outages could adversely affect security protocols, including alarm systems and electronic fences; opportunistic criminal activity could increase during electricity outages,” says Malvin Chiremba, a local businessman.

According to the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries and Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, the power cuts are costing businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in loss.

World Energy Investment 2021 report, while unpacking the latest data and analysis of how energy investment flows are recovering from the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, including full-year estimates of the outlook for 2021 examined how investors are assessing risks and opportunities across all areas of fuel and electricity supply, efficiency and research and development, against a backdrop of a recovery in global energy demand as well as strengthened pledges from governments and the private sector to address climate change.

“The report focused on two key questions; whether the growing momentum among governments and investors to accelerate clean energy transitions is translating into an actual uptick in capital expenditures on clean energy projects and whether the energy investment response to the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic will be broad-based or if some sectors, geographies and vulnerable parts of the world’s population will be left behind,” notes the report.

Zimbabwe has an installed capacity of 2,100 megawatts from all its power plants. However, it generates an average of 1,200 megawatts and import the remainder from neighbouring countries.

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