It has been established that the reason Zimbabwe (and Zambia) have been able import electricity from South Africa is that SA has had surplus power for the past 6 months. The surplus power in South Africa is coming from reduced demand by the manufacturing sector in the country which has been weakened by the current global downturn in commodity prices.
The information was revealed by Bloomberg in a report about the Eskom, the national electricity company in South Africa. According to the report Eskom is now exporting its excess power to Zambia and Zimbabwe, which have been hit hard by the reduced water levels in Kariba Dam. Both Zambia and Zimbabwe get a significant share of their electricity from from the hydro power station at Kariba.
In addition to the South Africa imports, Zimbabwe has also reduced demand for power from the the shutting down of manufacturing companies. Techzim writes:
While the availability of surplus power to import has been a good thing for Zimbabwe, the fact is Zimbabwe’s own power demand has also reduced. Zimbabwe’s manufacturing has reduced significantly, with large power consuming companies like Sable Chemicals shutting down. Sable alone was using about 40MW of power. Most of the country’s manufacturers have either shut down completely or stopped manufacturing (preferring to import and just brand the products) after failing to compete with imports.
Where in September last year, the whole country was under severe load shedding because ZESA could only provide 984 megawatts against a claimed demand of 2,000MW, Zimbabwe has managed to end its load shedding completely with a total 1,293 MW being supplied. Essentially, the difference, some 700MW of power, is no longer needed.