Why Tanesco reassembling is necessary

Saturday March 26 2022
Makamba pic

Energy minister, Mr January Makamba. PHOTO | POOL

By Jacob Mosenda

Dar es Salaam. Plans are underway to expand access and improve energy efficiency through the ongoing efforts to strengthen the Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited (Tanesco) .

According to the government, Tanesco’s strengthening has been one of its biggest activities in the past one year. The goal, it says, is to lift the power utility out of a small investment and tackle frequent power outages.

Speaking in an occasion to mark a year President Samia Suluhu Hassan ascended to power on Thursday evening in a live broadcast, Energy minister January Makamba said there were power lines, substations and transformers that need to be replaced and overhauled.

“We have prepared a $1.9 billion recovery budget which is equivalent to Sh4 trillion that will enable us to first close the gap on the grid, and then we will proceed with the new projects which are underway,” he noted.

He said Tanzania should expect persistent power woes until completion of the repairs.

“This is science, it not mere words. It is a work that will take time, and I cannot deceive Tanzanians,” he said without giving the estimated time the entire process would take to finish.

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Elaborating, the Bumbuli MP, who used a chart to demonstrate his message, showed that the country’s power demand dropped in 2016, 2017 and 2019 by nine percent due to decline in production capacity.

However, power demands surged in 2021 due to revival of business activities stimulated by conducive environment created by the government. “That is why there are frequent electricity outages now than the situation in the last few years,” he said.

He said currently there were 27,000 transformers with a gap of 10,000 new modifiers. “Therefore, the government has been working to close investment gap in the last 12 months in order to achieve generation target of 5,000 MW come 2025 and improve the quality of transmission and supply.

Mr Makamba assured Tanzanians that there were great work the government was doing in all the three areas: production, transmission and distribution.

He disclosed that in order to efficiently carry the rehabilitations, President Hassan has already disbursed Sh400 billion out of the budgeted Sh4 trillion.

According to him, implementation of the Julius Nyerere Hydropower Project was going as to plan and set standards and that upon completion it would up the country’s power base and that the mindset of the state power utility has now changed to start focusing on scientific execution of its responsibilities.

“The government is looking on the project differently including the dam itself, transmission and evacuation structures to Chalinze cooling station for further distribution.

“Therefore, the sixth phase government has signed evacuation agreements that will provide electricity from the dam to Chalinze Cooling Station as well as other areas. A lot of work has been done to make it technically operational,” he explained.

This is not a small venture because the power evacuation itself has cost about $900 million, he said, adding that the construction pace has increased.

According to him, the recent country’s power production was 1,700MW which is very small for a country of the size of Tanzania in terms of population growth and national goals.

Regarding transmission, he noted that there were 6,111 kilometres of high voltage transmission with 1,700km new transmission projects established in the last 12 months.

Mr Makamba said the country’s distribution network was now 151,000 kilometres supplying electricity everywhere including in streets and villages.

On alternative energy sources like geothermal, Mr Makamba said Tanzania was using a great potential to generate electricity.

However, he observed that power generation through geothermal required significant investment in drilling wells and therefore making enough risk management plans.

Thus, he said the government has decided to work with other development partners to find investments that are risk tolerant in secure areas.

“On our grid we have not yet installed enough solar and wind power although solar resources are plentiful. But over the past one year we have completed the preparation of implementation of approximately 900MW of solar and wind power,” he said.

Regarding electricity export and trading, he said once the country produces surplus that would be entered into a joint power markets in the Southern African Power pool where there is interconnector for electricity trading like other commodities.

On the Mtwara gas pipeline financed by a $1.2 billion loan from Export-Import Bank of China but underutilised by 27 percent, he said problems were with Mnazi Bay and Ntora well’s failure to produce sufficient natural gas.

“Insufficient natural gas that could be transported to Dar es Salaam to fire the turbines in order to produce electricity that could significantly add to the national grid formed me to summoned owners of Mnazi bay and Ntorya wells. I have given them 18-month-ultimutam to increase production,” he said.

He admitted that Tanzania lost a case against Symbion Power, an American energy company that won an award the international arbitrator something the Sixth Phase government had to execute.

“We have paid the company as instructed, but there was a clause that allowed the country to repossess the turbines,” he said during the debate without mentioned the amount paid and when the payment was concluded.