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Kariba set to stop power generation by October

by New Ziana
05 Aug 2019 at 18:12hrs | Views
Imports are the only short-term solution to ending Zimbabwe's power crisis as receding water levels at the main hydro-power plant continue to curtail generation, an official said on Monday.

Zimbabwe has faced an acute power deficit since May, largely induced by a drought which has forced power utility ZESA to more than halve production from Kariba, and frequent breakdowns at its old thermal power station in Hwange.

So serious have the shortages been that power utility, ZESA Holdings introduced power cuts lasting up to 18 hours a day.

New power projects will only come onstream in three years, said a top official at the utility's electricity power generating arm, the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC).

ZPC's business performance manager, Bernard Chizengeya, said dwindling water levels at Kariba would see the firm likely stopping all power generation in Kariba by September.

Chizengeya said the country has no choice but to pay its dues to regional power suppliers and get into fresh power supply agreements as a means to solve the shortages in the immediate term.

Zimbabwe owes power utilities in Mozambique and South Africa up to US$70 million.

"We need imports, that is our best bet currently. We cannot continue running Kariba because if we do, it will run out of water by September," Chizengeya told journalists at an energy awareness workshop.

"We need to unlock imports, but we can only unlock the imports by paying what we owe, then we can import more."

At best, Zimbabwe is currently producing slightly above half of the over 1,400 MW it requires to meet demand.

And because of low water levels, Kariba, which was generating more than 400 MW in July, will see production slumping to around 180 MW this month – not enough to power Harare. Kariba has a generating capacity of 1,050 MW after another 300 MW was added in 2017.

Kariba Dam is designed to operate between levels 475.50m and 488.50m for hydropower generation. The current dam level is 478m and power production will cease when it gets to 475m.

Power production can only improve if Kariba gets more water but this is unlikely to happen in the next eight months, Chizengeya said.

Hwange is at the same time highly unreliable, with the five operating units frequently breaking down because they are overdue for service. The sixth unit is currently down.

Foreign currency shortages are stalling maintenance operations, Chizengeya said, and the situation is made worse by the fact that its sister company, the Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution Company (ZETDC), owes it over US$600 million.

ZETDC, which is the seller of power to users, is on the other hand owed about ZWL$1.2 billion in unpaid bills by its customers.

Chizengeya said new generation projects the country is working on will only begin to bear fruit at the earliest in 2022 if timelines are observed.

Seven major projects, among them the expansion of Hwange, Batoka, Gairezi and Insukamini, are on the cards and have capacity to generate 2,250 MW.

"All the projects which we are looking at up to 2027 will bring in 2,250MW but that is not going to help us now," he said.

Zimbabwe is currently only getting 50MW from HCB of Mozambique and could unlock more supplies if the debt is paid. The country's energy minister Fortune Chasi returned from South Africa last week where he was negotiating imports of 400 MW, but ZESA's arrears to Eskom remain a stumbling block.

Power shortages have grossly impacted on business and industry which have lost millions in production stoppages while quality of life for households has also been affected.

Source - New Ziana
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