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Cablegate: Regional Blackouts Underscore Zimbabwe's Power Woes

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PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0073/01 0251110
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 251110Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2425
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1827
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1741
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1867
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1144
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1501
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1923
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4351
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0994
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC//DHO-7//
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK//DOOC/ECMO/CC/DAO/DOB/DOI//
RUEPGBA/CDR USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE//ECJ23-CH/ECJ5M//

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000073

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

AF/S FOR S. HILL
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L.DOBBINS AND E.LOKEN
TREASURY FOR J. RALYEA AND T.RAND
COMMERCE FOR BECKY ERKUL
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC ECON EMIN ENRG ETRD PGOV ZI
SUBJECT: REGIONAL BLACKOUTS UNDERSCORE ZIMBABWE'S POWER WOES

REF: A. LUSAKA 074
B. 07 HARARE 0998

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Power blackouts across the region this week have
underscored the precarious state of Zimbabwe's regional and
domestic power supply. South Africa no longer exports power
to Zimbabwe; the DRC supply is erratic; Cahora Bassa
Hydroelectric (HCB) in Mozambique is holding Zimbabwe on a
tight leash, and Zimbabwe must meet its new power export
obligation to Namibia. Domestically, the Hwange power plant
continues to struggle with coal supply and the national grid
is increasingly subject to vandalism. On the positive side,
heavy rains will allow the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply
Authority (ZESA) to run the Kariba hydroelectric plant at
full throttle soon. Nevertheless, the short- and medium-term
outlook for meeting Zimbabwe's power needs, even in the face
of ths sharply contracting economy, is gloomy. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Erratic Imports Exacerbate Dire State of Power Supply
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. (SBU) ZESA CEO Benjamin Rafemoyo outlined the dire state
of the country's electric power supply to econoff on January
21, 2007, as Zimbabwe struggled to deal with a wave of
blackouts in the region (Ref A). The blackouts come at a time
when Zimbabwe is utilizing less than half of its plant
capacity (itself inadequate to meet demand) and power supply
from the region is increasingly unreliable (Ref B). Rafemoyo
reiterated that ESKOM of South Africa no longer supplies
power to Zimbabwe. SNEL of the DRC is currently exporting 80
MW to Zimbabwe against a contractual supply agreement of 100
MW; the shortfall is due to vandalism and transmission
problems in the DRC.

3. (SBU) Rafemoyo admitted that Mozambique's HCB had briefly
shut down power supply to Zimbabwe at year end, holding ZESA
to ransom until it made the final agreed payment associated
with the ownership transfer of HCB. Anchoring Zimbabwe's
current power deal with HCB is an agreement under which
Zimbabwe receives 200 MW for specific mining companies that
pay ZESA in foreign exchange in return for priority supply;
HCB will provide Zimbabwe with power above the 200 MW anchor
only on a short-term basis. (Comment: Contacts in the mining
industry tell us that even when the mines pay ZESA in foreign
exchange, the crumbling infrastructure is rendering their
power supply erratic. End Comment.) Earlier this month,
vandalism of two pylons carrying electricity cables entirely
knocked out the power supply from Mozambique and it has yet
to be restored. Looking north, Rafemoyo optimistically
maintained that Zambia will begin to export off-peak power to
Zimbabwe in June 2008 and sign a firm sales agreement in
2009.

4. (SBU) Press reports that NamPower had written off
Zimbabwe's debt to the company for NamPower's ongoing
refurbishment of Hwange generators were "far from true,"
according to Rafemoyo. In addition, and further reducing
domestic power supply, the Hwange plant recently began
exporting 50 MW to Namibia under the refurbishment deal; the
export obligation will rise to 150 MW over the next five
years.

HARARE 00000073 002 OF 002

------------------------------------
And Erratic Domestic Supply, As Well
------------------------------------

5. (SBU) ZESA is working to bring the Hwange thermal power
plant back on stream after it shutdown on January 19. On
January 21, Rafemoyo said the plant was producing 250 MW of
its 780 MW capacity. However, the state-owned The Herald
reported on January 24 that a breakdown in coal supply to the
plant as a result of the power outages had slowed down
re-activation of the plant, further taxing delivery. On a
positive note, benefiting from heavy rainfall in the Zambezi
River watershed, Rafemoyo said ZESA could soon run the Kariba
hydroelectric plant at full throttle, increasing its output
to 750 from 730 MW. Of the small Harare, Bulawayo and
Munyati thermal power plants (combined capacity 170 MW), none
is in operation, although Rafemoyo has received a promise of
state funding to purchase coal for the plants and bring them
back on stream by May 2008. He forecast that production at
Hwange would reach 780-800 MW by September/October 2008 under
the NamPower agreement.

-------
Comment
-------

6. (SBU) The short- and medium-term outlook for ZESA meeting
Zimbabwe's power needs, even in the face of a sharply
contracting economy, is gloomy, with serious implications for
the country's economic recovery once the politics come right.
Even if additional sources of power became available to
Zimbabwe, the country's deteriorating infrastructure would
present a serious impediment to a quick turnaround. End
Comment.
MCGEE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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