The reform of the electricity supply industry in Zimbabwe and its impact on power sector investments since 2002

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply (ESI) reforms of 2002 were primarily meant to improve the quantity and quality of electricity supply through encouraging private participation, especially in generation, introducing regulation and competition and restructuring the utility. The reforms have not yielded the expected results, two decades on. This research explores the reform process and the extent to which it is structured to encourage private investments. The research approach used was primarily qualitative, based on survey research and expert interviews as well as longitudinal power sector performance data. The research found that a transitional ESI structure was adopted to deal with legacy debt issues, as well as to allow the different companies time to develop to a level where they can commercially trade. The regulator was found to be fairly independent, with a good licensing framework and tariff methodology. However, the off-taker's tariff is below cost, though IPPs have been awarded cost reflective tariff and largely view the tariff methodology as acceptable. Only small IPPs have been able to commission their projects, with the larger ones failing to reach financial closure. This has not helped some of the objectives of the reform, as the installed capacity in the country remains below demand. The reforms proposed in the Electricity Act of 2013, meant to further restructure the utility, have not been implemented as the government felt that the conditions in the country were not yet conducive for the generation, transmission and distribution companies to be spun out of ZESA Holdings. The research concluded that the reforms managed to improve the attractiveness of the industry to investment, though only small IPPs managed to commission their projects, leaving a large demand-supply gap. It is recommended that further study be done to establish conditions necessary for further restructuring of the sector as this may be the panacea for unlocking bigger projects which will have an impact on improving the quantity and quality of power supply.