HARARE, August 27 (The Source) – Zimbabwe’s main electricity plant, Kariba Hydro, has had its output capped at 475 megawatts, down from recent winter peak of 705MW due to lower dam water levels, the state power utility has announced.
The scaling down of generation at the world’s largest man-made lake will worsen electricity shortages in the southern African country, which is already grappling with a deficit that has seen industry, mines and households go for hours without power. Zimbabwe currently generates just over 1,300MW against demand of about 2,000MW.
In a statement published in the national press on Thursday, the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) said the lake level was 5 metres (or 1 percent) below the previous year’s level of 485.91 metres above sea level. This follows lower water inflows into the lake during the 2014/15 hydrological year, ZPC said.
“It has been determined that continuing at current levels of power generation would result in the lake falling below the minimum drawdown level of 475.5m before the onset of the next rainy season, hopefully in November 2015, with a possible shutdown of the station for two months,” ZPC.
As a result, ZPC said, the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) an agency jointly controlled by Zimbabwe and its northern neighbor Zambia with which it shares the lake, had reduced the water allocation to the two countries’ power utilities for generation purposes.
“ZRA have re-run the simulation to determine the remaining allocation and recommended level of generation of each utility going forward as350MW for Kariba North (Zambia) and 475MW for Kariba South (Zimbabwe),” ZPC said.
The power utility said it would endeavour to reach maximum generation capacity, which currently averages 700MW, during peak periods, but output would be scaled down considerably outside the peak periods.
Zimbabwe’s Kariba South plant was commissioned between 1959 and 1962 and is currently the biggest contributor to Zimbabwe’s power grid with an average 55 percent. The plant is undergoing a Chinese-funded $500 million expansion, which will add 300MW by the first quarter of 2018.
The country’s other major plant is the Hwange thermal station, commissioned between 1983 and 1986, with installed capacity of 920MW. Hwange’s current output averages 600MW.
Zimbabwe also has three smaller, coal-fired stations in Harare, Bulawayo and Munyati, with a current combined capacity to generate about 240MW. These aged plants, built in the 1940s, are however expensive to run and currently generate less than a third of their current combined capacity.