Power crisis to worsen in Zimbabwe

Kariba Dam

The reduction in water allocation for power generation is likely to result in intense load shedding throughout the country.

THE debilitating power crisis might escalate further after the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), a joint venture outfit owned by the governments of Zimbabwe and Zambia, which manages water in the Zambezi basin, advised the two countries that water consumption available for electricity generation at Kariba Dam could be reduced further by December this year, if water levels do not improve.
The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) and Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) share the water resource from Kariba Dam for power generation.
The Financial Gazette learnt this week that dwindling water supplies for power generation at Kariba will result in electricity generation at Kariba further plunging by 190 megawatts (MW) to 285MW.
Kariba Power Station is currently generating about 475MW after ZRA reduced water allocation for power generation at the Kariba Dam from 45 billion cubic litres per annum to 33 billion cubic litres due to low water levels in the dam following poor rainfall.
Previously, the Power Station was generating about 750MW.
Now, that water could further be reduced, should water inflows into the dam fail to improve, the situation would be grave, as crippling power cuts, caused by decreasing electricity generation, would undermine the competitiveness of local products, and also worsening the low productivity levels in the manufacturing sector.
The intended move was revealed by both, ZESA Holdings chief executive officer, Josh Chifamba and Energy and Power Development Minister, Samuel Undenge, who told this newspaper that it would worsen the already bad electricity situation.
“The information I am getting from ZRA is that from the current levels of generation- post curtailment (reduction from 750MW to 475MW)- they are actually going to cut (475MW), should there be no improvement in water levels to 285MW,” said Chifamba.
Energy and Power Development Minister, Samuel Undenge weighed in saying: “The news I am getting from meteorologists is not encouraging,” said Undenge. They are forecasting a low rainfall season again. We might be forced to reduce our water consumption at Kariba further, worsening the already bad situation.”
The move would worsen the power supply situation in the country at a time ZESA is battling machine breakdown at its four thermal power stations in Hwange, Harare, Munyati and Bulawayo.
The small thermals were commissioned between 1946 and 1958 and have since reached their design life, which is 25 years.
They are now in a deteriorating state with most of the plants requiring either life extension measures or complete replacement. Consequently, their generation capacity has seriously declined.
The last unit of Hwange Power Station was commissioned in 1987, which translate to more than 25 years
Water consumption at Kariba has now been reduced to allow an average generation of 475MW. Kariba Power Station has been Zimbabwe’s biggest generator of electricity.
The plant has been producing relatively cheap and reliable electricity for the country but it’s no longer performing to its optimal due to reduced usage of water.
The reduction in water allocation for power generation is likely to result in intense load shedding throughout the country.
Undenge said in order to mitigate the pending crisis, Cabinet has already approved the installation of emergency power plants powered by diesel generators as part of efforts to avert the worsening electricity situation.
“The immediate solution to avert the near disaster if we have low rainfall in the next season is to install what we call emergency power plants. These are modules of diesel generators which can be installed in the shortest possible time. We are already working on installing these as early as February 2016. We will starts with plants with a capacity of 200MW. This has already been approved by Cabinet.