Sunday, 12 April 2020

WE HAVE NO LOAD SHEDDING HERE


A handful of revellers, disregarding global and national recommendations to stay at home and reduce the possibility of contracting or spreading the deadly coronavirus, mingle in a pub at Hauna growth point in Honde Valley.

It’s midweek and by 8pm the well-lit centre is still bustling with activity as an assortment of vendors outside compete for the defiant customers going about their routine nightlife.

Unlike most parts of the country, where people have already been forced to reduce business hours particularly at night owing to power outages, here they close when they want because electricity is available around the clock.

Closing his grocery store for the day, Kudzai Nyabereka boasted that unlimited access to power had kept his businesses afloat to the mutual benefit of the community.
 “From a business point of view, it is helping us plan our businesses well and we do not lose our perishable products like meat and that has been our greatest benefit,” Nyabereka said.

“I run a bakery, for example, and if power goes off during the process of making such fresh products we will make huge losses, but I can safely say in the recent past we have not thrown away anything on account of not having power.”

The Honde Valley community owes its privileged status in a country where the majority have had to endure 18-hour daily power cuts since May last year to Nyangani Renewable Energy (NRE), an independent power producer (IPP).

NRE has since 2010 set up mini-hydro power stations capable of producing over 30 megawatts (MW) of electricity in the area.

IPPs are privately sponsored power projects that are developed, constructed and operated, and have long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) with the national power utility.

Through a run-off river power system, a type of hydroelectric generation plant whereby little or no water storage is provided, NRE has managed to fill a significant part of the country’s dire energy deficit.

“Most people are just happy that power is always on in this part of the country, but they do not know that the main reason for that is NRE,” the company’s power generation manager, Takudzwa Chigwande, said.

According to Chigwande, Honde Valley has become a “green area” where “there is no load-shedding” as they are producing surplus electricity beyond the 3MW needed to power the area.

The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) has been failing to meet the country’s daily demand of 2 200MW resulting in long hours of load-shedding. 

Zesa’s generation capacity fell to below 820MW, against daily peak production of 1 600MW in winter and 1 400MW in summer after water levels at Kariba Dam dropped significantly due to successive droughts.

The situation has been made worse by coal-fired thermal power plants that are mostly erratic due to obsolete equipment and experts say clean energy sources like hydro, solar and wind power could be the sustainable solutions to bridge the gap.

Chigwande said NRE was making a difference in Zimbabwe’s electricity supply situation.

“We use a synchronised generator system where our stations run on parallel mode to the grid feeding into it between 29 to 30 megawatts and three megawatts of that is used in Hauna and the surplus goes to other areas,” he said,
In addition to producing clean and environmentally friendly energy, NRE has brought viable development to the once backward peasant communities.

For headman Francis Kashiri in ward 5 under Chief Mutasa, the benefits from NRE’s operations have been far beyond being able to switch on the lights at night. 

According to Kashiri, the harnessing of Pungwe River to produce electricity by NRE through Pungwe A and B stations (the largest so far) has resulted in infrastructural development and opened employment opportunities for hundreds of his people.

“They have given us projects that are benefiting the community, including jobs, building of modern houses as well as bringing pipes to water our banana projects, which are flourishing and supplying the cities,” he said.

In addition to compensation for their farmlands and powering local clinics, in 2012 NRE built Nyamusamba Primary School close to Kashiri’s homestead.

“Before this project, our children used to travel a distance of 10km to Buwu Primary School, but now they do not have to and there is now electricity and water here as well,” said the school’s headmaster Kiven Ushamba, adding that connection to power makes modern teaching easier.

“There is a subject in the updated curriculum called ICT (information and communication technology), which needs electricity and we will be using computers that need power, so it will help us.”

United Nations research points at 13% of the global population still lacking access to electricity while three billion people are said to rely on unsustainable sources like wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating.

Over the years, the government has been licensing IPPs to plug the electricity deficit, but few can match the progress being made by producers such as NRE.

As of August 30 last year, more than 40 IPPs had been issued power generation licences although only nine of those had their projects completed by then.

Gazing at the scenic mountainous terrain punctuated by tidy tributaries and teeming banana plantations, Chigwande sees opportunity to extract more power.

“There are many sites to do a hydro (power station) because the perennial rivers are there and in some areas the sites are determined by the gradient so there are some sites that you can see,” he said.

Apart from financial constraints which have stalled NRE expansion at Tsanga power station in Nyanga, he reiterated the potential to harness more hydro power in Honde.

“There are some rivers that have not been exploited like in Nyanga we are doing a cascaded power station, but one has stopped at 40% because of the economic hardships,” Chigwande said.

But for Nyabereka, other traders and people of Honde Valley, the harnessing of hydro power that has ensured continued access is nothing short of a blessing.

“It is generally a blessing from God that we have a lot of water and the people that thought of harnessing that power potential,” Nyabereka said. Standard


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