THE Zimbabwe Power Company says it can maintain current power generation limit of 475 megawatts at the Kariba South power plant until February next year even if it does not rain within that period.
Kariba South Hydro Power Station general manager Kenneth Maswera, however, said both ZPC and its Zambia counterpart, which draw water from Lake Kariba for power generation, may have to reduce their individual production to a maximum of 250MW if the prevailing dry spell persists.
The power utility had to reduce generation at the Kariba plant after the Zambezi River Authority, which administers the border river between Zimbabwe and Zambia ordered them to scale down production from the installed capacity of 750MW due to fast receding water level in the lake.
Kariba Dam’s water level should be maintained at 478,7m and 474,8m to sustain its socio-economic mandate for the two Southern African countries, but poor rains in the river’s catchment last rain season means water inflows into the lake did not reach the expected levels.
“Assuming there is no drop of rain (around Kariba Dam catchment area) the current water levels can last until February,” Kenneth Maswera,general manager for Kariba Power Station told lawmakers in Kariba.
“Beyond that all the power stations might have to reduce generation to about 250 megawatts.”
Persistent dry spell would mean further reduction in the water allocation by ZRA between Zimbabwe and Zambia, which currently stands at 40 billion cubic metres after having been revised downward from 45 billion cubic metres earlier this year, which would reduce the optimum electricity available to Zimbabwe.
According to ZRA, water allocation to Zambia and Zimbabwe’s power utilities could be halved if inflows into Zambezi River do not improve, to avoid depleting the water levels in Lake Kariba to critical levels.
The country is already facing critical shortage of power with generation at an average of 900MW while demand at peak periods averages 2 200MW. This has negatively impacted households, commerce and industry.
“The Zambians have already used up their allocations for this year and are already using their allocations for next year. The matter is being handled at a highest level. We have used 85 percent of our allocations.”
“Currently Kariba Power Station is meeting 45 percent of national supply, today it’s producing 468 megawatts. We are now running low to mitigate against the lake running low.”
“The source of water for our dam is in North West of Zambia, Sanyati and Gwai rivers in Zimbabwe, this year our water levels started very low because we didn’t have adequate rainfall from the main supplies. There was no significant inflow into the lake this year,” Mr Maswera said.
The lake water levels still have headroom of about 2,6 metres between which the neighbouring power utilities can maintain current reduced generation of 475MW for Zimbabwe and 305MW for Zambia, which generates on the northern bank of Zambia River, which has an installed capacity of 1 020MW.
Government has already contracted Sino Hydro to expand Kariba South by a further 300MW to resolve power shortages. Other projects are ongoing across the country, the main one being 600MW Hwange extension.
Engineering costs for the expansion of Zimbabwe’s Kariba Hydro Power Station by China’s Sino Hydro Ltd., has increased to $354 million from the initial $369 million due to the increase of inflation from the China, an official said.