4 reasons why Zimbabwe’s ban on water heaters is baseless

The BBC has reported that energy officials in Zimbabwe are set to call for an end to the use of water heaters in the country, citing big power shortages as reason for the ban. Energy officials have stated that solar power should be tapped for newly built facilities, while older facilities using electricity, should stop using water heaters. However, considering socioeconomic conditions within Zimbabwe, the ban seems misplaced. Here’s why.

There is no logic for using the ban to save 400 megawatts

In media reports, energy officials failed to provide data on how many homes actually make use of water heaters and how much power they consume, so as to give credence to the statement of regaining 4oo megawatts as a way of stabilizing power in the country. One mega watt equals one million watts, but do all the homes using water heaters in Zimbabwe consume up to 400 mega watts? The national demand is at 2,200 mega watts and the Kariba hydropower station and the Hwange thermal power station supply around three quarters of this.

How affordable are water heaters for all Zimbabweans?

In reality, how many Zimbabweans have access to water heaters? Access to electricity aside, the appliance is a luxury for many homes. In 2013, Zimbabwe ranked 156 out of 187 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index. It is silly to believe that placing a ban on water heaters in a country where about 72 percent of its population lives below the national poverty line (less than US$1.25 per day) will have a significant impact on saving power.

Power is currently epileptic

About 60 percent of Zimbabweans do not have access to electricity. This could be due to the low water levels at the Kariba Dam. Kariba Dam is a hydroelectric dam in the Kariba Gorge of the Zambezi river basin between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is the world’s largest man-made reservoir and stands 420 feet tall and 1,900 feet long. Zimbabwe has recently experienced droughts which have affected power generation in Kariba Dam. Bulawayo and some Southern provinces in the country, will likely experience drought between October and December 2015 . In recent times, many cities are experiencing power outages for up to 24 hours, as a result, investments in the power sector are poor.

Kariba Dam may be the real problem

According to experts, the Kariba Dam which supplies power to both Zimbabwe and Zambia may dry up this month, due to poor management. The Kariba Dam requires rehabilitation, which is expected to cost US$300 million over 10 years, compared to the cost of building a new dam at around US$5 billion. Emergency spilling which is caused by a lack of turbine capacity, has scoured a plunge pool to a depth of about 80 metres around 50 to 75 metres downstream of the dam wall.

Sourcing for alternative sources of power is a good step taken by Zimbabwean authorities, but placing a ban on water heaters seems like scratching the surface of the problem. More drastic and serious policies need to be put in place if Zimbabwe wants to get itself out of this dire situation.

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