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Zimbabweans must brace for more power blackouts this festive season due to the imminent closure of the Kariba South Power Station, the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) has warned.

Unit Six is being closed in December for refurbishments.

Charles Bhebhe, the acting general manager for Kariba Power Station, told reporters on Friday during a tour of the hydro-electric plant that Zimbabwe would be 125 megawatts short for six weeks beginning December.

"To date, the refurbishment of other five units has been completed with the last one having been finished in October," he said, adding that the expansion of Kariba South was going according to schedule as evidenced by the ongoing drilling of six access tunnels.

The Kariba hydro power station currently produces 750 megawatts from all six units, while the proposed extension is expected to provide an additional 300 megawatts to the national grid.

Zimbabwe needs about 2 200 megawatts of electricity at peak consumption but generates just below 1  300 megawatts, while relying on imports to fill the gap.

In recent months, the country could only afford to import nearly 50 megawatts from neighbouring countries after major electricity suppliers in the region switched it off over non-payment of arrears.

In an effort to deal with the electricity crisis, which has dogged the country since the turn of the millennium, government recently opened the sector to independent power producers.

But the independent power producers feel the current tariffs are not commercially viable.

In September, Zimbabwe signed a $1,5 billion deal with China's Sino Hydro Corporation  to expand a coal-fired power plant in the most ambitious move yet to tackle the country's crippling electricity shortages.

The deal, which still needs full financial cover, would see Sino Hydro Corporation add 600 megawatts of electricity at the ageing Hwange thermal plant in western Zimbabwe as well as a transmission line.

The project is due to take 42 months to complete.

ZPC is owed more than $900 million by debtors and over the last three years, has been introducing pre-paid meters, where customers pay in advance for their power.




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