The general electricity situation in Zimbabwe has gotten worse lately. We are talking about load shedding here. There are also other issues, such as faults and vandalism; not our key focus today, though. The extents of the load-shedding situation vary from place to place. There are some places where there is no load shedding at all. The majority of places in Zimbabwe are experiencing load shedding almost daily. Someone I know resident in Harare, took note of load-shedding hours over a period of 13 days. In total load-shedding was active for 134 hours, meaning electricity was only available for 57 percent of the time. It is even worse in some places. On average many places are out of electricity for 15 hours daily.
Problem Nursed For Many Years
The most disappointing thing is the power issues in Zimbabwe are perennial. That alone means the relevant authorities know the dynamics. Even the general public now knows. For instance, this time of the year (i.e. last quarter), power becomes erratic. Why? It is because we are too reliant on hydroelectric power from Kariba. Traditionally it has always been the most significant power generator in Zimbabwe anyways. These years’ rainfall is erratic, too, so it is now a perpetual cycle. Hwange thermal power generation is constantly riddled with operational challenges. You would think by now; lasting solutions would be in place or in process. Sadly, load shedding has just gradually become an inconvenient norm for many Zimbabweans.
A Careless Mistake By ZESA
It recently emerged that ZESA exceeded their power generation limit at Lake Kariba. Here is the thing, the Zimbabwe Power Company has to generate only up to 550MW at Lake Kariba. Exceeding this limit ends up affecting water allocation or rationing. The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) is reported to have warned ZESA about exceeding the limit. It is said ZESA did not heed that advice. Another thing you must note, though, is the fact that there is a limit indicates a problem already. It simply shows that Lake Kariba no longer has the capacity for efficient power generation in Zimbabwe. That 550MW limit is almost half the full capacity of the Kariba South hydroelectric power station.
Letter From ZRA To ZESA
On the 25th of November 2022, the Zambezi Authority sent the following letter to ZESA:
EXHAUSTION OF 2022 WATER ALLOCATION AND NEED FOR SHUTDOWN OF KARIBA SOUTH BANK POWER STATION TO AVERT RISK OF TOTAL SHUTDOWN OF POWER GENERATION OPERATIONS AT KARIBA
ZPC/KHPC no longer has any usable water to continue undertaking power generation operations at Kariba South Bank Power Station.
With the current performance of the 2022/2023 rainfall season in the Kariba Lower Catchment where the river flows are yet to improve and the associated inflows from the Upper Kariba Catchment which will only influence any potential increase in the Lake Level at Kariba during the latter part of the first quarter of 2023, it is highly unlikely that there will be any reasonable inflow augmentation in the remaining period of the year 2022, giving little or no chance of improvement in the reservoir storage levels during the remaining period of the year 2022 and going into the first quarter of the year 2023.
If the current water utilisation above allocation at Kariba South Bank Power Station continues, the remaining water for power generation at Kariba (live storage) will be out by mid-December 2022 or much earlier.
Guided by the Water Purchase Agreement and the provisions of the ZRA Acts and as the agreed Reservoir Operational Framework under the Joint Technical Committee (JTC), where the Authority and the two Kariba Power Generation Utilities are obligated and have agreed to sustainably operate the reservoir, the Zambezi River Authority is left with no choice but to firmly guide that ZPC/KHPC 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 which will include consideration of the total reservoir live storage build-up which would have resulted from a shutdown of the Kariba South Bank Power Station power generation operations.
This definitely has serious implications for the already dire electricity situation. About 70 percent of the total electricity consumed in Zimbabwe comes from Kariba South hydroelectric power stations. ZESA’s subsidiary, the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), recently unveiled an explainer video. The video detailed why hydroelectric power generation was suspended at Lake Kariba, as according to that letter. As I have said before, it is high time serious steps are taken in solar power generation. Lake Kariba and Hwange should, at best be ancillary. Kindly share your thoughts on these developments.