The Zimbabwean Power Situation

With an peak energy demand of 2 200MW, the government of Zimbabwe is able to provide only 1 175MW through the National Utility ZESA to the population. This has resulted in intensive load shedding. Zimbabwe’s resource base is diverse but is largely dominated by the country’s vast coal reserves with proven reserves based on exploration work carried out standing at 12 billion metric tons. These are adequate to meet ten times Zimbabwe’s electricity and petroleum needs for the next 100years. This coal is of good quality and with calorific values ranging from 20-32 MJ/kg. The country also has hydro power potential which if fully developed could also provide sufficient power to meet Zimbabwe’s needs. Zimbabwe relies on hydroelectric power. In rural parts of the country, 80-90% of the people depend on wood fuel and kerosene for cooking lighting. Food processing tasks like milling grain are usually carried out with diesel-powered system. Total electricity generation in 2009 was 9 770 GWh. 73% of this was produced from renewable source which is hydro.

Coal Thermal Power Plants: 2.63 billion KWh (27%);

Hydro Power: 6.5 billion KWh (67%);

Renewable: 0.64 billion KWh (6%)

This shows that Zimbabwe has the potential to expand greatly in the field of renewable energy because sources like solar, mini hydro, wind are still in the scale of mini and micro hydro power generation. Coupling these renewable energy sources with energy efficiency, we are rest assured that we are able to reduce the country’s annual consumption but more than 30%. Energy efficiency is totally not an issue in Zimbabwe and a lot needs to be done.  Of we are able to save at least 30% that means we will be have a short fall of 3.2 billion KWh, and energy accessibility would be improved.


Energy Sources

The energy supply options from Zimbabwe have a mixture of hydroelectricity, coal and renewable sources. The grid is well developed with efforts after 1980 having extended supplies to rural business and government administrative areas. Much of Zimbabwe’s electricity is produced at the Kariba Dam Hydroelectric Power Station (about 750 MW), at Hwange Thermal Power Station which has an installed capacity of 920 MW, and at three minor coal fired stations. Apart from the Kariba Dam Hydroelectric Power Station, there is still quite a lot of hydropower potential especially along the Zambezi River. Solar Power has enormous potential both in small and large scale. Wind and biogas energy are other possibilities.

Renewable Energy Sources

Hydropower-Zimbabwe has one major hydro-electric power plant power plant in operation with an installed capacity of 750MW, producing 6.5 million MWh/year and this plant is very crucial because it bears 67% of Zimbabwe’s energy demand. Recent efforts by NGO’s have seen to date about 400KW mini hydro schemes being installed around the country for off-grid communities producing 3 504 MWh/year. In the near future with correct investments and business environment in place the potential 18 500GWh from Hydropower can be harnessed. Currently a 750KW hydro scheme is being built, the government is also planning to add a further 5 MW of small-hydro. About 8 small-hydro plants are currently being installed, ranging from 3 kW to over 700 kW. The total potential of small-hydro in Zimbabwe is estimated at 120 MW. Gairezi, which is located in the Nyanga district is particularly promising, with an estimate 30 MW of potential capacity.

This means Zimbabwe will be able to generate 37billion KWh from Hydro in the next 10-15 years.

Bagasse- This has necessarily not been for national benefit but individual companies utilizing biomass-based renewable energy technologies such as timber waste, urban waste and biogas.  Bagasse is currently used to generate 72.5 MW of electricity in the Lowveld. Biogas offers an option for supply of household and agro-industrial energy in Zimbabwe. More than 400 biogas digesters have been installed in Zimbabwe, which range in capacity from 3 cubic meters to 16 cubic meters.

Over 70,000 tons of biomass waste is produced annually from timber plantations, and more than 2.5 million tons of household and industrial wastes are produced per annum in urban areas. Some of this waste material has the potential to fuel power plants to create electricity or other forms of energy. An additional plant can be built with suitable feed-in tariffs for a power plant with an installed capacity of 100MW. This means it will be able to add 0.876 Billion KWh/year and eliminate waste in the country.

Solar-Solar radiation is available at an average of 2 000 kW per hour per square kilometer per annum, spread over roughly 3,000 hours per annum. Government efforts have resulted in 222 mini grid solar systems had been installed at remote rural schools and clinics. Solar has been regarded as an off grid technology and therefore not so popular within urban areas, another demerit of solar technology is security because vandalism and theft is at the highest level since. There is an enormous potential for use of solar PV and solar water heaters that has not yet been exploited. Technically, solar PV has a potential of 300 MW.

The other demerit of solar tech is pricing, the production price is averagely $0.24 compared to $0.15 from the utility it becomes a hard thing to sell. But given continued interventions and policies being implemented there is a possibility of the price going down.

A tender has been won recently for the construction of a 100MW solar power plant under the REFIT program where they will sell the power at $0.18 where it will be blended.  This means an additional 0.867 billion KWh/year will be generated in the next 3 years and maybe 2.6 Billion KWh/ year in the next 10 years.

Wind-Given the level of investment required for a MW the wind industry has failed to take off in the past years. The average wind speed in Zimbabwe is estimated to be 3.5 m/s. A non-governmental organization called ZERO conducted a number of feasibility studies and also financed the production of 1KW and 4 KW wind turbines for off-grid use and for providing power to municipal buildings. In the areas of Bulawayo and the Eastern Highlands, there is potential for power generation from wind turbines because these regions have the most prevalent wind speeds ranging from 4 to 6 m/s. Given these wind speeds one is persuaded to conclude that there is also considerable potential for wind energy, particularly for water pumping. Even as an energy engineer it is hard to predict the rise in energy production from wind.


Geothermal- In 1985 the geothermal potential was acknowledged as being 50 MW. Currently not much else is known about the potential of geothermal. Due to Zimbabwe’s proximity to the Rift Valley region, it is reasonable to assume that geothermal power generation can be applied.


Time frame for Completion of these proposed projects.

 Hydro: 12 billion KWh in the next 5 years and upto 37 billion KWh in the next 10 years.

 Bagasse/Biomass: 0.1 billion KWh in the next 5 years and as upto 0.876 billion KWh in 10 years.

Solar: 0.864 billion KWh in the next 5 years and 2.7 billion KWh in 10 years’ time.


Problems, Barriers and Policy Issues

Capacity is a major concern in Zimbabwe. No new developments have occurred in the country’s generation sector since the commissioning of the Hwange Coal Plant in 1988. Thus only about 60% of the country’s installed capacity is available. There is need for increased confidence that the energy sector is a viable sector in Zimbabwe. The electricity sub-sector suffers from unsustainable operations owing to financial constraints as a result of non-cost reflective tariffs, collection inefficiencies, and vandalism of distribution infrastructure. The loss of experienced staff in the last decade also contributed to the sub-standard performance of electricity supply industry. The unsustainable performance of the sub-sector is reflected in the low investment in infrastructure and substandard poor delivery of service.


One of the greatest barriers one cannot ignore are that there is need to restore the two power utilities, ZPC and ZETDC, to financial health. In the case of ZPC, the issue is to address the current financial problems and through financial and perhaps technical restructuring, and prepare the company for a possible partnership with a strategic investor /interested in investment.


In regards to policy electricity tariffs in Zimbabwe are well below the cost of service delivery. ZETDC’s current average tariff of US$ 0.0753/kWh is about 65 percent of the cost recovery tariff estimated at US$ 0.116/ kWh. A long history of tariffs in Zimbabwe (and elsewhere in the Southern Africa region) at sub-economic levels have not been able to provide the right signals for optimum use of electricity and attraction of new investments. Similarly, the sub-economic tariffs have led to adverse consumer behavior that involved inefficient use of electrical power. The introduction of cost reflective tariffs will be required to put ZPC and ZETDC on sound financial grounds to become acceptable partners in the PPP arrangements.

Renewable Energy Sources

Coal Thermal: 2 570MW capacity which means 22.5 Billion KWh/year.

Hydropower: 2 350MW in total which means 20.6 Billion KWh/year.

Renewable: 90MW from mainly biomass waste with annual 0.788KWh/year.

Solar: 102MW in total which means 0.893 billion KWh/year.

Geothermal: Potentially 50MW and an annual production of 0.438 billion KWh/year.


The power crisis in Zimbabwe is man-made; the potential far exceeds the demand. As long as the proper measures and policies are in place investment will come and we will be able to export our electricity to the region. Electricity production has great potential to improve the livelihoods of the Zimbabwean population and contribute to the country’s GDP.

 Your country could be next, please send your views and comments at 



3 thoughts on “The Zimbabwean Power Situation

  1. Pingback: The Zimbabwean Power Situation | collinsenergy

  2. Nice research collins for sure our country needs some great investment especially in the much abundant solar that we have i think that can take us far.

  3. Paul, thank you so much. Investments in the energy sector now are very very hard to get because we are looking at a minimal US$1 million/MW. so imagine. you should write to us telling us whats happening in Russia there.

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