What Are The Two Places Where Electricity Is Generated In Zimbabwe?

Electricity generation in Zimbabwe has mainly relied on large-scale hydro and thermal power plants. The country has an installed electricity generation capacity of about 2,240 MW, with around 60% coming from hydroelectric sources and 40% from thermal power plants. However, Zimbabwe faces challenges in meeting its electricity demand due to aging infrastructure, droughts affecting hydropower output, reliance on imported coal for thermal plants, and foreign currency shortages. Zimbabwe has tried to diversify its electricity mix by looking into renewable sources like solar power. However, renewables currently only account for a small share of the country’s generation capacity. Overall, Zimbabwe’s power supply remains constrained, leading to frequent power cuts and demand far outstripping supply.

Kariba Hydroelectric Power Station

The Kariba Hydroelectric Power Station is one of the largest hydroelectric dams in the world. Located on the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland West province, construction on Kariba Dam began in 1956 and was completed in 1961. The resulting reservoir, Lake Kariba, has a capacity of 180 billion cubic meters and spans a length of 280 kilometers.

The Kariba Hydroelectric Power Station has an installed capacity of 1,050 megawatts, making it the largest hydroelectric power station in Zimbabwe. It generates over half of the country’s total electricity output from six Francis turbine generators of 175 megawatts each. The Kariba South Power Station Extension project completed in 2018 added two 150 megawatt generators, increasing the facility’s capacity to 1,050 megawatts.

The Kariba Hydroelectric Power Station is operated by the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), a subsidiary of the state-owned Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) which oversees electricity generation, transmission and distribution throughout the country.

Hwange Thermal Power Station

Hwange Thermal Power Station is the second largest power station in Zimbabwe and is located near Hwange in the northwest of the country. It is the biggest power plant in Zimbabwe with an installed capacity of 920 MW 1. The power station first opened in 1983 and underwent an expansion in 1986 and again in 2014. Hwange is a coal-fired thermal power station that uses low-grade coal from the nearby Wankie Colliery as its fuel source. It is operated by the state-owned Zimbabwe Power Company. Two additional units are expected to come online at Hwange in 2022 which will increase the installed capacity to over 1,000 MW 2.

Renewable Energy Sources

Zimbabwe has significant potential for renewable energy, particularly solar, wind, and biomass. The country receives over 3,000 hours of sunshine per year and average solar radiation of 21MJ/m2, making solar PV and solar water heating viable options (1). Solar potential is highest in the southern parts of Zimbabwe like Masvingo and Beitbridge. Several large-scale solar projects have been developed in recent years, including the 100MW Gwanda solar plant and 5MW solar plant in Insukamini.

solar panels in rural zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has good wind energy potential in regions like Matabeleland North and Manicaland, with average wind speeds of 5-7 m/s at 30m height. The 100MW Mbembesi wind farm was recently commissioned as the country’s first large wind energy project (2). Smaller wind turbines have also been installed to provide power in rural schools and health clinics.

Biomass from agricultural residues, forestry waste, and municipal waste represent major renewable resources in Zimbabwe. Bagasse cogeneration at sugar mills, wood waste use for heat and power, biogas from manure, and waste-to-energy plants can help meet energy demand sustainably. The potential for decentralized small-scale biogas digesters in rural areas is also significant.

(1) https://www.aecfafrica.org/renewable-energy-in-zimbabwe/

(2) https://jointsdgfund.org/programme/catalysing-investment-renewable-energy-acceleration-attainment-sustainable-development

Transmission Grid

Zimbabwe has a transmission grid consisting of HVAC lines operating at 330 kV, 220 kV, 132 kV and 88 kV. There are over 5,200 km of high voltage transmission lines crisscrossing the country. The 330 kV lines transmit electricity from major power stations to substations near load centers, while the lower voltage lines distribute power within regions.

The backbone of the grid consists of 894 km of 330 kV lines and 1,783 km of 220 kV lines. Some of the major 330 kV lines include the 511 km Kariba South-Harare line and the 283 km Hwange-Bulawayo line. The 220 kV lines connect cities like Harare, Bulawayo, and Mutare. The grid is interconnected with neighboring countries like Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa, facilitating power imports and exports.

Zimbabwe has been upgrading its transmission grid by constructing new high voltage lines and substations to improve reliability and meet rising electricity demand. However, the grid requires further investment and maintenance to reduce losses and outages.

(Source: http://www.geni.org/globalenergy/library/national_energy_grid/zimbabwe/index.shtml)

Rural Electrification

Zimbabwe has made significant progress in expanding access to electricity in rural areas over the past few decades. According to the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), the national rural electrification access rate increased from just 19% in 1990 to about 43% by 2022 (World Bank).

The government has implemented several key programs focused on rural electrification. The main one is the Rural Electrification Master Plan, which was launched in 2002 with the aim to electrify all rural institutions such as schools, clinics, business centers, and government offices. The master plan also targets high density rural communities (Chikova).

To help fund these efforts, the government created the Rural Electrification Fund (REF) in 2002, which is financed by a 3% levy on electricity consumption. The REF provides subsidies and loans to rural electrification projects conducted by the REA and electricity utilities (Munyoro).

Power Imports

Zimbabwe imports electricity from neighboring countries to help meet domestic demand. According to the Electricity Imports of Zimbabwe 2000-2021, between 2000 and 2021, Zimbabwe’s net imports of electricity decreased from 6.34 to 3.34 terrawatt-hours (TWh).

Some key electricity imports come from the following sources:

  • Mozambique: Zimbabwe imports electricity from the Cahora Bassa hydroelectric dam in Mozambique. In 2017, imports from Mozambique were 3.5 GWh, up from 3.3 GWh the previous year, according to Mozambique Energy: Electricity Imports: Zimbabwe data.
  • South Africa: Zimbabwe imports electricity from Eskom, South Africa’s public electricity utility. However, imports have declined in recent years due to Zimbabwe’s outstanding debt to Eskom.
  • Zambia: Zimbabwe has an electricity import agreement with Zambia to help meet peak demand needs.

Regional interconnections allow Zimbabwe to import power when facing domestic shortages. However, the country seeks to reduce reliance on imports through investments in domestic generation capacity.

Demand and Consumption

Zimbabwe’s demand for electricity has fluctuated over the past two decades. According to a techno-economic feasibility study, in 2018 the total electricity demand in Zimbabwe was estimated to be around 2,200 MW. However, according to Earth database, the total electricity demand in 2021 was 1,815 MW, representing a decrease of 17.24% since 2000.

Per capita electricity consumption in Zimbabwe is quite low compared to other countries. As of 2018, per capita consumption was estimated to be around 1,200 kWh per year. This is far below the world average of around 3,000 kWh per capita per year. The low per capita consumption is largely due to supply shortages and lack of access to electricity, especially in rural areas. Estimates suggest only 40% of the Zimbabwe population has access to electricity.


The electricity sector in Zimbabwe faces several challenges that have contributed to frequent power shortages and outages. One major issue has been recurring droughts that have reduced water levels at the Kariba dam, impacting hydropower generation which accounts for over half of Zimbabwe’s electricity production. According to a report by the World Bank, Zimbabwe has suffered from four major droughts over the past two decades, with the drought in 2019 being particularly severe and leading to a decline in hydropower output from Kariba [1]. Lower rainfall has meant the dam’s water levels have often fallen below the minimum threshold required for peak power generation.

Another challenge has been the poor state of electricity infrastructure, with aging equipment and insufficient investment leading to transmission losses, faults, and bottlenecks in the grid. Zimbabwe loses around 15-20% of its generated electricity through technical losses during transmission and distribution [2]. The costs of rehabilitating and upgrading the electricity network have also been prohibitive.

The inability to expand capacity and meet rising electricity demand, driven by population growth, urbanization, and industrial needs, has also been an ongoing issue. Zimbabwe has had to rely on imports from neighboring countries to help cover supply shortfalls, but this has come at a high cost and strained government finances.

Future Outlook

The future outlook for electricity generation in Zimbabwe is more positive, with expansions planned for both hydroelectric and thermal power stations. Kariba South power station is undergoing an expansion project to add two new 150MW generators, which will increase capacity by 300MW when completed in 2022 (https://www.herald.co.zw/kariba-south-power-station-expansion-on-course/). For Hwange, upgrades and expansions are also planned, including adding two new 300MW units to take the total capacity up to 1,520MW. Overall electricity demand is projected to continue growing at over 5% annually, so keeping up with demand will require optimizing existing plants as well as bringing new renewable sources online.

Renewable energy is expected to play a bigger role, with solar, wind and biogas contributors increasing generation capacity. The government has set targets for renewable energy to make up 16.5% of total output by 2025 and 26.5% by 2030 (https://www.africa-energy.com/article/zimbabwe-aims-renewables-target). Meeting these targets will require significant investments, but will help diversify Zimbabwe’s electricity mix. Overall, through planned capacity increases and fresh renewable sources, the country is aiming to reach surplus power generation of over 3,000MW by 2030.

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