The Sunday Mail
Senior Business Reporter
ZESA Holdings has come up with contingency plans to forestall power supply challenges that might result from low water levels in Lake Kariba, which feeds into Kariba Power Station.
Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) — a body that superintends over management of the water resource on behalf of the Zimbabwe and Zambian governments — recently cut water allocations to the power station.
However, Zesa intends to strategically reduce electricity generation during off-peak periods (mid-morning and afternoon) in order to achieve the twin objectives of conserving the allocated water and increasing output during peak periods.
Local supplies will also be complemented by imports from Eskom of South Africa.
Zesa chief executive officer Mr Patrick Chivaura told The Sunday Mail Business on the sidelines of the 46th Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) executive meeting in Harare that the low water levels in the lake would affect power generation in the country.
“Definitely, it will have an impact because our power supply situation is dependent on availability of internal generation at Hwange Power Station, Kariba Power Station and small thermals (Bulawayo, Munyati and Harare), and, above all, imports (from the region),” said Eng Chivaura.
“In January, we were sitting at over 22 billion cubic metres of water and this was reduced by the end of January to 19 billion cubic metres.
“That translates to something like 490MW. But as of now, it has been reduced to 445MW because we were allocated 18 billion cubic metres. That is an average (power generation) figure that we are talking about.
“So, we can generate 445MW continuously, but that is not exactly what we do. We take care of our peaks (peak period of demand) during the morning and in the evening, but that (445MW) is just the average we have been given by ZRA,” he said.
Demand for power in Zimbabwe currently stands at 1 600MW at peak periods, while available generation capacity hovers just under 1 500MW.
Imports are usually used to close the gap.
However, Mozambique and South Africa, which used to provide the country with import cover, are currently facing generation and supply bottlenecks.
Kariba is Zimbabwe’s largest power station after Hwange, which has design capacity of 920MW. Currently, Hwange only generates 700MW due to aging equipment.
El Nino-induced dry spells have resulted in dropping water levels in Kariba.
Lake Kariba has a prescribed water level, which is known as the live water, below which its water cannot be used for power generation.
Eng Chivaura said Zimbabwe’s power imports from South Africa have been limited to 50MW from the previous 350MW.
Eskom is currently grappling with technical challenges that have adversely affected power generation.
It now depends on Mozambique, which, however, bore the brunt of Cyclone Idai, which felled a transmission line that used to feed 1 200MW to South Africa.
Eskom is currently working with the authorities in Maputo to have the critical line up and running.
Eng Chivaura said Harare has to continue to service its obligations with Eskom to ensure continued supplies.
“Imports have sustained us for the past four to five years and we have not seen load-shedding at all and the only thing that has to be maintained is meeting our obligations with Eskom.
“If we meet our obligations with Eskom, paying their bills, we will still get the support (50MW) that they have given us,” he said.