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Desperation: Turbines kept running



DESPITE being warned of the dire consequences of continuing to generate electricity at Kariba Hydro-Power Station, Zimbabwe, which is desperate to keep the lights on, is continuing to generate power at reduced capacity.


The Zimbabwe Power Company was last week told by the Zambezi River Authority to immediately stop electricity generation until January, after exhausting its water allocation of the year.

Energy and Power Development minister Soda Zhemu however revealed the power station would continue operating, producing 300MW of electricity daily while other measures are being pursued to boost supplies.

“ZPC has indeed exhausted its water allocation for the year. However, Kariba Power Station will not shut down completely, rather it will continue to generate, but at a reduced capacity of up to 300MW daily average pending a review of the water situation at the dam in January 2023. This means that the power station has the latitude to vary its capacity as long as it maintains the required average capacity.”

Zambia, which has several other sources of power, has not exhausted its quota, but has reduced electricity generation at Kariba to 800MW per day. Other than the Kariba North Hydro-Power Station, Zambia has other hydroelectric stations, including Victoria Falls, Small Hydros, Kafue Gorge and Kafue Gorge Lower power stations.

ZRA last week said ZPC should stop generating power because of low water levels in the dam and the fact that it had surpassed its yearly allocation.

“As of November 25, 2022, Kariba South Bank Power Station had utilised 23.89 billion cubic metres (BCM) of water, accounting for 1.39BCM or 6.16% above the 2022 water allocation of 22.50 BCM,” the ZRA said.

“. . . Guided by the Water Purchase Agreement and the provisions of ZRA Acts, as well as the Agreed Operational Framework  under the Joint Technical Committee, where the authority and the two Kariba power generation utilities are obligated and have agreed to sustainably operate the reservoir, ZRA is left with  no choice but to firmly guide that ZPC immediately ensures that generation activities at the  South Bank Power Station are wholly suspended  henceforth, until January 2023 when a further review of the substantive hydrological outlook at Kariba will be undertaken.”

Other than continuing to generate power at Kariba, Zhemu also said Zimbabwe would also rely on imports, among other sources, to avert the energy crisis.

The Kariba South Bank plant provides the nation with around 70% of electricity and has been producing significantly less than its capacity of 1 050 megawatts in recent years due to a declining water level caused by droughts.

Addressing the media in Harare yesterday, Zhemu said the country, through the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) Holdings, will import electricity from the region.

“The ministry has come up with measures through its utility Zesa and IPPs (independent power producers) to mitigate the challenges. In the immediate term, Zesa is currently negotiating for additional imports from the current suppliers. More power will also be secured through SAPP (Southern African Power Pool) market,” said Zhemu.

The Kariba plant has been generating 572 megawatts (MW) of the 782MW of electricity produced in the country, according to the website of the state-run Zimbabwe Power Company.

Although imports were the first of the many measures announced by the minister, Zimbabwe has a bad record of settling power import debts from South Africa.

In March 2020, Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube paid the last US$890 000 of a US$3 million debt to Eskom.

Other measures announced by Zhemu include increasing production from local power generation installations.

“ZPC will ramp up production at Hwange Power Station to average 400MW,  small thermals to produce a combined total of 45MW, support will be given to IPPs to enable them to produce at maximum capacity,” said Zhemu.

He added that Hwange Unit 7 will start contributing to power supply later this month and the commissioning of Unit 8 would follow.

“Unit 7 of Hwange is undergoing commissioning and will start feeding power into the grid.  Soon after, commissioning of Unit 8 will follow,” he saidZhemu urged consumers to reduce consumption for this period.

“The ministry urges all consumers to reduce load by employing energy conservation and efficiency measures. Lights must be switched off in all offices at night and other measures like right sizing of equipment, use of energy savers,” he added.
The government will also embark on a solar power plant at Caledonia Mine/Blanket 12MW, Richo Solar 1.3MW and Guruve 1.2MW. 

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