ZIMBABWE requires more than US$100 million to replace around 2 000 transformers that were vandalised in recent years, Parliament heard last week.
This come at a time when the country is grappling with serious power outages caused by poor power generation at Kariba Hydro-Power Station as water levels in the dam have dropped due to poor inflows into Zambezi River.
Energy minister Fortune Chasi last Thursday told Parliament that the vandalised transformers cost between US$10 000 and US$50 000 each depending on the size.
He said there was need for legislation that would prescribe deterrent sentences in order to curb vandalism of transformers as well as deal with issuances of copper trading licences.
The country’s maximum demand of electricity is estimated at 1 700 megawatts (MW), giving a supply demand gap of about 300 to 500MW which is usually met by importing from South Africa’s Eskom and Kahora Bassa of Mozambique.
The gap of 300 to 500MW has resulted in extensive load-shedding due to lack of alternative sources of energy, with gas costing between $9 and $13 per kilogramme.
“Electricity infrastructure vandalism has also contributed to a number of areas having no access to electricity in the country,” Chasi said.
“Transformers are being stolen daily and there is a deficit at the moment. About 2 000 transformers were stolen and need replacement. These transformers are not cheap, they cost as much as $50 000 each,” he said.
If the 2 000 transformers are replaced, Chasi said, it would see power restored to over 25 000 customers that have gone for long periods without electricity, which includes schools, clinics, business centres, farms and domestic points.
Bikita West MP Elias Musakwa (Zanu PF), however, pointed out that a Zesa subsidiary, Zent has the capacity to manufacture transformers and also to export them to earn foreign currency.
Energy ministry secretary Gloria Magombo said Zent was indeed capable of producing transformers, but they needed foreign currency support.
Chasi said there is need for an urgent bailout of ZWL$63 million monthly from Treasury to Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) if it is to continue supplying electricity to the nation
“With the current tariff, ZETDC is collecting between ZWL$60 to $70 million against a monthly budget of ZWL$130 million to cover the bare essentials. Zesa is technically insolvent and
I am sure MPs are fully aware of this. It is struggling to fully fund operations. The severe cashflow crisis being experienced would see operations grinding to a halt in the not-too-distant future, unless support is rendered as the funding gap increases every month cumulatively, as people fail or decide not to pay the bills.”
Chasi said the price of critical generation consumables had increased by 250%, adding that coal suppliers at the moment were agitating for an upward price review.
He said power imports of up to 400MW can be unlocked by a bankable plan to both Eskom and Cahora Bassa.
“The imports would securitise power supply for the exporting mines and industries and release power for the other customers, some of whom are prepaying. It is proposed that exporters pay their electricity bills in foreign currency in proportion to their foreign currency retention percentage. This arrangement is estimated to raise $11 million against an estimated
bill of $14 million per month. A statutory instrument to this effect is being considered. The foreign currency generated would go towards meeting the current power import bills plus a portion for the amortisation of arrears,” Chasi said.