Govt considering shutting down 3 power stations, Hwange Units 1-6 should be evaluated too

Leonard Sengere Avatar

The circus that is Zimbabwe’s power generation continues. The country remains in literal and figurative darkness as electricity demand continues to outpace supply. As I write this, the Zimbabwe Power Company says we are producing 587MW against a demand that sometimes reaches 2200MW.

That is why we are in darkness. We can rig and twist many things but when Hwange is producing 219MW like it is today, all the sweet talk in the world will not give the masses electricity.

We have been following the goings on over at Hwange closely as it appears that is where our salvation, in the short term at least, is going to come from. Unit 7 went live last week and is still being properly synchronised. It will only give us the full 300MW it can deliver in a couple of months’ time.

We’re going to need every single megawatt from it as Units 1-6 are, to be kind, not reliable. Unit 8 should add its 300MW to the mix around October. Units 7 and 8 with their combined 600MW would be our hope, anything over 600MW from Hwange would have to be considered a bonus.

Kariba is hobbling because of low water levels and will be producing only about a third of its capacity.

What about the other plants?

Harare, Bulawayo, Munyati

When looking at power generation stats, our eyes head straight to Kariba and Hwange and we sometimes forget about these three – Harare, Bulawayo and Munyati.

That is because there hardly is any point in looking at these small thermal power stations. They hardly ever produce anything. Today, this is what they are contributing:

  • Munyati – 18MW (against a current capacity of 100MW and an original of 120MW)
  • Harare – 0MW (against a current capacity of 50MW)
  • Bulawayo – 0MW (against a current capacity of 90MW and an original of 120MW)

In Zimbabwe where most houses don’t have air conditioning, we could theoretically power 1000 homes with a MW. So, these three are producing enough to power at most 18,000 homes. Highfields in Harare alone has over 70,000 residents or around 18,000 homes.

They aren’t even powering those 18,000 homes efficiently either. This is not helped by them not being located close to any coal mines.

That’s pitiful and the Zimbabwe government is considering shutting them down. They have asked ZESA to evaluate the efficacy and efficiency of the three small thermal power stations and devise a clear strategy on how to move forward. Said the Ministry of Energy, permanent secretary,

As government, we are saying look at its use, the cost of keeping them going in terms of a clear cost-benefit analysis and then you advise us as government in terms of the most cost-effective way to continue having them there. They are ailing and it’s expected.

These 3 are now old and inefficient. They are costly to run and the perm sec reminded us that “they don’t use thermal coal like what Hwange uses. Hwange uses what we refer to as thermal coal, but these power stations use special coal, which is much more expensive.”

I’m all for decommissioning them and letting all our efforts go to new projects. I heard that at least one of these thermal stations used to be run by a city council and that it was run efficiently then.

So maybe we could try just getting them out of ZESA’s hands. There is a chance that that could solve some problems. However, seeing as some of them were commissioned 72 years ago, I won’t be holding out any hope.

Hwange Units 1-6

I think we should also do a cost-benefit analysis on Hwange Units 1-6. As many of you have commented on previous articles, it might make sense to just pull the plug on those unreliable units. They are almost always broken down and scarce resources are wasted resuscitating them only for them to break down again in no time.

Government should ask ZESA to also evaluate the efficacy and efficiency of these units. I am sure at least one of them has to be decommissioned.

I know you may feel like we could use every single MW we can get but some of these megawatts are costing a little too much, especially in engineering time. They need to go. Let the engineers work overtime to fully synchronise Unit 7 and get on to Unit 8.

What do you think? Should we streamline our operations or should we hold on to these old stations until we are energy sufficient? What of Hwange, do you think we should keep trying to make Units 1-6 work? Do let us know in the comments section below.

Also read:

You doubted them, Hwange Unit 7 now feeding electricity into national grid

New Hwange Unit 7 set to add 300MW to the national grid, time to embrace coal?

iPhone’s new feature charges phone slowly when the grid uses ‘dirty’ energy like Hwange coal energy

27 comments

What’s your take?

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  1. Sylvester

    Magetsi hasi kutengeka

  2. D.K.

    Ari out of stock!

    1. Kurt

      Let’s go solar and forget ZESA. Simple

    2. Anonymous

      Zesa, air zim they just need to wake up now the world has changed and moved on its time to make a new move unit 1-6 just let them rest just like air zim let these Boeing 767 and 737 just rest and move to recent things

  3. innocent dzvairo

    How can we talk about decommissioning something that is not functional. We can only talk about resuscitating the plants so that we get at least some electricity . The decommissioning can only be decided by someone who has both the cost of maintaining and the corresponding output. What are the problems encountered by Harare, Munyati , Bulawayo and Hwange 1 to 6 Units ? Are the dynamos life expired ? If so just replace them wholly as opposed to panel beating piece meal repairs.

    1. Power Plant Engineer

      As someone who actually works in a power station, it is fun seeing all the speculations online. Funny words like Dynamo😂.

  4. Mukanya

    Very soon ZESA will be rationing out or sanctioning solar energy……

  5. Homeschooled.

    We inherited all these power stations from the settlers and we failed to maintain them and at least improve capacity when it would have costed a little. Now we are suffering.

  6. Anonymus

    Decommissioning something that is non functional🤣🤣🤣

  7. Kamikaze

    The thing is what we are trying to do will not work coz these thermal power plants were made with British technology and now we are trying to replace the broken or old parts with Chinese parts it doesn’t work that way …. you can’t replace a Mercedes gear box with a Toyota gear box. I don’t know the reason why we can’t hire British companies to fix this maybe sanctions I don’t know but if we really want to move forward we should start from scratch

    1. PPE

      As someone who actually has some experience on this stuff (actively). You could almost not be further away from what’s actually on the ground. But it’s good that you think they are British designs. And you’re spot on on sanctions

      1. Kamikaze

        African engineering is just repairing

    2. PPE

      As someone who has actual experience with the machines I can confidently say the average zimbo like you has absolutely no idea what’s going on at Hwange or other power stations. We usually discuss these articles over tea break laughing at both the assumptions by the reporter and the comments by the readers. The whole Toyota benz analogy makes me thing you’re not actually an engineer too. Because machines at this scale don’t normally work like that for components prone to breaking down. Anyway I don’t wanna break my contract’s terms🤐

      1. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

        As a person who works with actual engineers, I don’t you are an engineer. Right now, I’m am actually reading and laughing at your comment with other real engineers.

      2. Tell us then!

        This is the problem. What kind of transparency is this? If you know what’s on the ground, just tell us. You and your bosses are messing with us.

        You say you laugh at us over tea. Entertained by how mistaken we are. You do this instead of just telling us what’s on the ground. You really should be ashamed of yourselves.

        Why the secrecy? This tells me that your bosses know that the reason for the dilapidated power stations is incompetence, their own incompetence. If it was sanctions, we would be told, indeed if an outsider was to blame, we would never hear the end of it. The silence is telling.

        So my dear friend who is actively familiar with what’s on the ground. You’re either BSing us on your little contract thing or you’ve been lied to by your bosses. Either way, I feel sorry for you.

        1. PPE

          Read something called the Protected Places Act. Generally though I’ve never seen a country that really gives details of exact causes of power outages. Even Eskom doesn’t do it. They’ll just say breakdown. Because that’s what the average Joe will ever need or might even understand.

          1. Tell us then!

            Our problems run deeper than Eskom’s and they have gone on for much longer. This means even us, average Joes, now want details as to why we can’t seem to be able to fix whatever problems are there. So, we need those details. And we may be average Joes in your field but we have brains that function. If we can follow what the rocket science say, even without not knowing the nitty gritties of their field, we can surely follow whatever explanation you have.

            Tell us PPE.

        2. K Rungu

          Dear PPE
          In my opinion you are insulting our intelligence, have an overinflated view of yours or both. I believe it is akin to a doctor not bothering to explain to his/her patient the nature and cause of their ailment for the equivalent reasons legislation that exist in the medical field.
          Aside from the above we are interested in results and not excuses. Which are we getting from ZESA, including its so called educated and secrecy protected engineers and other employees?

  8. Phillip Tanyanyiwa

    These people are fooling themselves.
    If, they know the real problems with the thermal power stations, we would not be talking about energy shortages at this point in time. Thanks for your time.

  9. Lamont

    I’d say instead of buying traditional chiefs expensive car. Use that money to buy new generators, simple.
    We have other big dams country wide, including Kwekwe’s Sabakwe Dam. Hydro power is cheaper and more reliable

  10. D.K.

    Just like with all things which were taken over in a running state and have now been run down, there is need to identify who was running these and hand them back. Those are the rightful to decide whether to decommission or not. The power stations did not just fall from the sky to be where they are, and there is need to revisit what their initial purposes were. If we accept defeat from infrastructure by decommissioning, we may as well decommission the whole country! From my thoughts and observations : Harare and Bulawayo Power Stations were run by the Municipalities which had very efficient electricity departments. The power stations provided back up power and the Municipalities injected any excess power into the national grid, possibly offsetting their bills with the national power producer. Electricity in town and residential areas, including street lighting, was looked after by the Municipalities.

  11. Anonymous

    Alternative sources of energy are available we don’t have the know how that’s all if we did or hired people who did and used money to build them without misusing things would be better but not entirely bad and factoring in maintenance I think we would be in trouble in the long run but stil better than we are at this juncture … and zesa must decentralize but if it did running electricity at council level would be hard on our pockets I know for a fact coz we are used to subsidies we would end up on alternate solar … or even wind it’s less cumbersome… more complex but les cumbersome …we have to be radical I mean many things can generate power gas solar thermonuclear a non starter here kkkk sorry to say geothermal wind solar the list is endless but out options very limited

  12. Dorcas kubiku

    This is good

  13. Peter Marchussen

    De commission all units that require decommissioning and that are inefficient . Set up one large company called ZESA solar& finance via HP all the homes and businesses in Harare. This will free up electricity for businesses , farming & mining plus private enterprise will get involved in financing this whole project

  14. Clausewitz

    Politics by other means. Who is benefiting when people are not getting electricity from the national grid?

  15. THE TRUTH

    I managed to be part of the Engineering department at one of the coal plants and the real thing that is happening is that ,much of the Turbines are dead and some of the boilers are no longer efficient to an extent that 3 boilers can feed steam into a single turbine.Many of the boilers have been decommissioned due to lack of spares and also some of the boilers are being salvaged for spares as to fix the other boilers which have better efficiency but this is just a time bomb as there will be nothing to get spares from.These boilers and Turbines are very old such that no company is still producing any spares for them,they have out lived their life span.The other issue is also about procurement of all the necessities for power generation, companies that supply coal demand payment in USD whilst most of Zesa customers pay in RTGS and this becomes a problem as the company needs to get USD but as you know government processes are very slow.This is all i could pre-empty as someone who was once on the ground and someone who had a hand in the technical department.

  16. MinuteMan

    Lomagundi and Harare Dr is ever in load shedding
    Lights are on 3 days a month
    Through out its cable faults and transformers.