South Africa Power Blackouts Blacken Zimbabwe

Johannesburg – South Africa power utility ESKOM this week announced a worsening electricity situation in the country after six of its power generation units broke down. The breakdowns have forced ESKOM to roll out stage two load-shedding which will see South Africans going for at least fourteen hours without electricity every day. ESKOM acting chief executive Jabu Mabuza said the load shedding is expected to last more than initially anticipated after the state-owned utility suffered a further setback by losing additional capacity from Medupi power station last night, ENN reports.

ESKOM released a press statement last night confirming that it has lost additional power supplies from Medupi 3, 4 and 5 generation units due to coal and ash handling issues. This was in addition to the conveyor belt that failed on Saturday 12 October at the power station. “This means that the power system has deteriorated further creating an additional shortage of about 1500MW generation capacity”, the power utility asserted.

With a national population of 57 million and a stage two load-shedding in motion, ESKOM is struggling to distribute the few remaining electricity to its citizens. This energy crisis has also affected neighbouring countries that were importing electricity from South Africa as ESKOM cannot supply them supply at this juncture. Out of these energy export developments, Zimbabwe is the most affected, ENN reports.

Zimbabwe imports 400MW of electricity from South Africa per week at an estimated cost of US$890,000. Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission Distribution acting managing director Ralph Katsande was quoted in a local newspaper recently saying the monthly consumption of electricity which is being imported into Zimbabwe is worth between US$13 million and US$15 million.

Zimbabwe’s electricity woes worsened this week, coinciding with the ESKOM challenges as citizens are enduring up to 18 hours without electricity every day. In a snap survey of major city centres of Harare and Bulawayo, ENN correspondent Carol Mvundura confirmed that most robot controlled intersections were being controlled by traffic police officers as there was no electricity to power them. The country is experiencing its worst energy crisis in years after Zesa was forced to reduce electricity generation from the Kariba hydro power station due to low water levels. In a bid to curtail widening losses due to long hours of load-shedding, about 20 local firms signed up to Zesa’s facility to ring-fence electricity imports and are contributing up to US$15 million a month in hard currency.

Zimbabwe is enduring one of its worst economic crises of the decade headlined by the world’s highest annual inflation, foreign currency challenges. The country is also experiencing electricity shortages, fuel shortages, water shortages and drought induced food shortages. In its latest verdict on Zimbabwe after its September 2019 visit, IMF said Zimbabwe requires urgent policy interventions to save it from total collapse.

As an acknowledgement of the Africa Energy Crisis, the South Africa government recently approved the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2019) which provides a blueprint for South Africa’s envisaged energy mix. In a statement released on 17 October 2019, Government said IRP2019 proposes nine interventions that respond to the country’s energy needs for the next decade.  If neighbouring Zimbabwe and its African peers could adopt a similar approach to their energy woes, more Africans will see the light again.

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