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Zim faces massive load-shedding •$43m power import arrears cited • Eskom threatens action in 8 days

Felex Share Senior Reporter—
Zimbabwe might experience massive load-shedding starting next week if Zesa Holdings fails to settle an outstanding power import bill of $43 million owed to Eskom of South Africa and Hydro Cahora Bassa (HCB) of Mozambique. Eskom supplies Zimbabwe with 300 megawatts, while HCB chips in with 50 megawatts.

The South African power utility has threatened to switch off Zimbabwe if Zesa fails to pay the arrears in eight days.

Zimbabwe consumes about 1 400MW daily against a generating capacity of around 980MW.
Zesa owes the two power giants over $100 million, but the $43 million is emanating from a payment plan it has failed to honour due to foreign currency shortages.

Earlier this year, Zesa made payment plans with regional power utilities and should have paid $89 million between January and April, but it managed to pay only $46 million.

The payment plan included last year’s arrears.

The firms gave Zesa up to May 31 to clear the arrears, but with only eight days to go, the power utility has not paid anything.

Zesa chief executive Engineer Josh Chifamba yesterday confirmed they were still to settle the arrears.
“We are yet to service the debt, but we are making frantic efforts to pay and revert to the original payment plan,” he said.

“We have been having meetings with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to find ways of coming out of this (problem). Hopefully, this week something will come up because everyone knows the effects of failing to pay.”

Zimbabwe has been enjoying steady power supplies for the past 16 months owing to various initiatives, which included imports.

Major creditors are Eskom, which is overally owed $80 million and Hydro Cahora Bassa of Mozambique ($40 million).

It is understood that HCB officials will be in the country tomorrow “to see how far Zimbabwe has gone towards raising the money it owes them”.

Eskom interim group chief executive Mr Matshela Koko recently wrote to Eng Chifamba indicating that supplies would be cut with effect from June 1.

“The balance as at end of March 2017 according to the plan, should have been R484 721 980, but the actual balance was R603 176 479, leaving a shortfall of approximately R118 454 499,” Mr Koko said.

“I refer to your finance director’s request to our Mr Segomoco Scheppers requesting further accommodation by Eskom by allowing Eskom’s remedial action as provided for to be delayed to end May 2017.

“Eskom do hereby confirms acceptance of this request and requires that; the current outstanding debt should not increase and Zesa shall take all steps necessary to ensure the outstanding balance as at 14 April, 2017 is maintained or preferably reduced, Zesa will restore the repayment plan by ensuring that as at end May 2017, the outstanding balance, including all subsequent invoices will be R491 416 426 or less.

“Kindly confirm Zesa’s acceptance of this accommodation being offered by Eskom. Kindly note that no further lenience or accommodation will be made in this regard and Eskom will draw down on the guarantee, raise the appropriate interest charges and curtail supply immediately should the balance not align with this proposal as at 31 May 2017.”

To back up power imports, Government recently issued an R500 million ($35 million) guarantee to Eskom and it is that surety that the latter is threatening to call up.

Industrialists and miners yesterday implored monetary authorities to prioritise power provision, saying any cut on supplies would affect industry and winter wheat cropping.

Chamber of Mines president Mr Issac Kwesu said: “Once they cut off it will be insufficient to meet national demand. If more than 300 megawatts is cut off or reduced, it means the authorities have to re-prioritise so that the productive sectors are given importance considering our role in the economy. From the mining industry we are saying whatever situation, give us what is available so that we keep on carrying the economy in terms of adequate foreign exchange. The economy has been improving and it means the monetary authorities should give Zesa a priority the same way Zesa has been prioritising us.”

An official from the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) added: “Respective authorities have to move with speed to ensure the money is availed otherwise we don’t want to move one step forward and two steps backwards.

“We have policies put in place to turn around the economy and without power we will be shooting ourselves in the foot. We should not undermine our efforts and reduce the business confidence, which is on the high.”

The country’s economic blueprint, Zim-Asset, identifies energy as a key enabler under infrastructure and utilities, as well as the value addition and beneficiation initiatives.

This cluster needs massive support and its failure spells doom for the country.

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Lights out for wasteful lighting

Jeffrey Gogo Climate Story 

A NEW law banning the sale of power-guzzling light bulbs takes effect today (May 1), as energy regulator, ZERA, seeks to pivot the economy away from energy inefficient lighting systems at a time climate change is escalating.

The law prevents the familiar incandescent light bulb, and other high energy consuming products such as fluorescent tubes, from being sold, made or imported into Zimbabwe, ZERA says.

Traders had three months to clear out inventory of inefficient lighting before the ban, announced in January, took effect.

From today, retailers and wholesalers who continue to stock the old-style bulbs, or consulting engineers that recommend inefficient lighting, will be liable to a fine or face six months in jail.

This is no fluke, the regulator warns. “On the date the regulations come into effect it will be illegal to sell or offer for sale inefficient lighting products,” Misheck Siyakatshana, ZERA’s technical director said, by email.

“So the offence is in the selling or offering for sale of these products,” he said, as ZERA expects the transition to low-energy bulbs to be complete by year-end.

Zimbabweans have slowly stepped up their purchase of alternative energy-saving lights like compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diode (LEDs) since power utility Zesa Holdings rolled out a $12 million campaign in 2011 handing out millions of efficient bulbs.

The utility hoped the campaign would encourage consumers to give up the traditional filament bulb, which, according to ZERA, still account for up to 15 percent of all lighting systems in Zimbabwe

But the newer lights cost more, nonetheless, at least the upfront cost – $2 and $3,50 each for CFL and LED, respectively, but both use much lower power and last almost 10 times as long as the incandescent that costs 50 cents, on the average, experts say.

Now, by banning conventional lighting, ZERA is looking at more effective ways of boosting energy efficiency in households, schools and businesses.

Chief executive, Gloria Magombo, has said the change-over to low-energy lights could achieve between 30 to 40 megawatts in savings.

There is more. Combined with Zesa Holdings’ prepaid metering programme, the switch could also have a dramatic impact on Zimbabwe’s climate change goals, preventing the equivalent of 1 300 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 13 years, according to the Government’s plan under the Paris Agreement.

Zimbabwe aims to cut emissions by 33 percent overall, or 17 300 gigatonnes, by 2030.

This is to be achieved mostly by increased investment in hydro and solar power, as well as improved efficiency in household and commercial energy use, the plan says.

“Using less energy means less burning of coal and other fossil fuels, thus reducing (Zimbabwe’s) carbon footprint,” said Eng Magombo via email.

Can manufacturers pull it off?

Sales of traditional bulbs have been slowly dying out over the last few years, said Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Denford Mutashu, as alternatives have come to market and people warm to the idea of more efficient lighting.

But he is concerned whether domestic manufacturers were up to the task.

“As much as we support initiatives that conserve energy, we are still want to ascertain the capacity of the manufacturers of lighting products, whether they will be equal to the task, to feed national demand,” Mr Mutashu lamented, by phone.

He said he didn’t want “to see a situation that leads to shortages, that lead to an increase in prices,” imploring ZERA “to make sure that this will not happen.”

But the backlash from the manufacturers was even stronger, even though admitting production of efficient lighting products could be slow in the first few months post-the ban.

“This (the concern on shortage of low-energy bulbs) is an unresearched view,” Busisa Moyo, who heads the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, told The Herald Business, by phone.

“We need to carry out the necessary research for those who are in lighting, to establish how much of the energy saving lights do we import for now while we build local capacity to produce these bulbs. There are no manufacturers of LED lighting in Zimbabwe. This (the ban) should be seen as an opportunity for creating new industries, which will eventually do away with imports. I think this is the conversation we should be having.”

The tough switch

Getting consumers to switch-over to a higher priced product even though it lasts longer is like selling ice to Eskimos.

Already, some consumers didn’t like the look of early CFLs and LEDs – which tended to give off a dim white light – but both now come in a range of hues, from yellowish warm to cooler bluish.

So, ZERA has found a clever way of getting round this problem: it is now selling the more efficient bulbs as an environmentally-friendly technology that is not only worth its price, but also saves energy.

The energy regulator has been running campaigns on TV and in the Press promoting this idea to the public. It could work.

Anything that improves household electricity supply Zimbabweans will easily relate. They have laboured through frequent power outages long enough they know what it means to be in the dark. After-all, there is something to ride on – the past Zesa giveaways – a campaign described by Eng Magombo as “a huge success.”

God is faithful.