HARARE, May 14 (Xinhua) -- Home and industrial power generators are rumbling again as Zimbabwe plunged into an energy crisis with fuel and electricity running short for both domestic and industrial use.
Apart from coming into use during occasional power outages largely caused by faults on the electricity grid, the generators had been safely tucked away as Zimbabwe enjoyed more than four years without load shedding.
While there had been a steady supply of electricity, the country had however been grappling with petrol and diesel shortages since 2018.
The energy situation got worse in May as power outages increased with the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) announcing that it was introducing load shedding because of limited power generation at its power stations and limited imports.
Reduced power generation at the Kariba South Hydro Power Station was caused by the drought which hit southern Africa during the 2018/19 rainy season, which has affected inflows into Lake Kariba.
The Zambezi River Authority, which administers the lake, has reduced power generation allocation to the Zimbabwe Power Company from 19 billion cubic meters to 16 billion cubic meters for 2019 to ensure that the plant continues to run until the next rainy season, resulting in corresponding reduction of power generation to an average of 358MW from the planned average of 542MW.
According to a schedule issued by the company, load shedding will normally be implemented during the peak periods of 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. However, the shedding periods have so far outlasted the prescribed times by far.
The use of generators has eased the lives of many people, but the biggest problem already is the accessing of either petrol or diesel to power them. Some filling station operators frown upon the use of containers to carry fuel, arguing that in many cases their products ended up on the black market.
At a filling station in Mount Hampden, just outside Harare to the northwest, a man pushed his generator laden wheelbarrow to the front of the queue to prove his point, and for his reward he was allowed to put some more fuel in a small container he had brought along.
However, not all generators can fit into wheelbarrows and not all people with generators have wheelbarrows.
Fuel shortages started in early Sept. 2018 when Zimbabwe's petrol consumption was 3.8 million liters a day while that of diesel was 4.1 million liters, compared to 1.5 million liters a day for petrol and 2.5 million liters a day for diesel in April of the same year.
Daily consumption of both petrol and diesel rose by 650 percent and 342 percent respectively between April and October 2018 but declined in Jan. 2019 after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced huge price increases of about 150 percent for the commodities.