Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) acting director Ralph Katsande has said large mining firms are sustaining the country's power imports.
To mitigate constant power shortages, the power utility in August introduced a facility to allow mining and exporting firms to directly import electricity from the Southern African Power Pool (Sapp).
Sapp allows national electricity companies in southern Africa to buy power from the pool through a shared regional grid system.
"The large ferrochrome, platinum, gold and nickel producers are continuing to anchor our power imports through the foreign currency payment scheme running since August 1, 2019," Katsande told NewsDay.
By the start of September, over 20 local firms had signed up to the Zesa facility paying a combined US$15 million monthly for power. This was to avoid widening losses due to long hours of load-shedding.
At the time, Zimbabwe was accessing an average of 200 megawatts (MW) from Sapp through this ring-fenced ZETDC/Sapp facility. The creation of the facility came as a result of Zesa having implemented an 18-hour load-shedding schedule that saw some companies scaling down production due to the lack of power.
The load-shedding came after Zesa reduced electricity generation at Kariba Hydro-Power Station as a result of low water levels.
Despite the mining firms paying for the electricity imports, mid last month, State media reported that Zesa was "shovelling" 400MW towards exporters accessing the ZETDC/Sapp facility on the back of low capacity to generate or import power.
Zimbabwe Energy Council executive director Panganayi Sithole said a number of the exporting mining firms were facing challenges accessing the electricity they paid for.
"A lot of mining companies … will confirm that they are paying power usage in United States dollars, but they are failing to get… Even when you pay in forex, it does not mean that ZETDC will get the amount of power it requires at any particular day. It depends on other circumstances that are outside their (ZETDC) jurisdiction," he said.
"They (ZETDC) go to a platform … (which) brings in buyers and sellers, so sometimes you might have more buyers with few sellers. So, even if ZETDC is holding the money, they won't be able to buy power because it won't be there."
He called on government to open the facility to any firm with access to foreign currency who wanted to import power.
Zimbabwe has a power deficit that has been fluctuating between 600MW and 1 000MW, forcing the country to rely on power imports to close the gap.