Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Brace for worse blackouts in 2017

By Gift Phiri

Zimbabwe’s chronic electricity shortages are set to get worse in 2017 as the country’s main source of power, Kariba Dam, continues to record low water levels despite the current rains.

A Zimbabwean family plays cards in Harare after a power cut
A Zimbabwean family plays cards in Harare after a power cut

At the same time, the country also continues to battle to mobilise enough resources to pay for power imports mainly from South Africa, and from Mozambique and Namibia.

In its latest update this week, the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), which manages Lake Kariba, warned Zimbabweans of dangerously low water levels in the dam.

As a result, Kariba Power Station’s generation capacity has been significantly eroded by the ever dwindling water levels in the dam, which the government has said is now below 10 percent of its holding capacity.

Zimbabwe, which requires about 2 200 megawatts of electricity at its peak consumption levels, usually draws most of its internally-generated electricity from the Kariba Hydro-electric Power Station, which produces about 750 megawatts.

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And despite adding 100 megawatts to the grid through the Dema Diesel Power Plant, the country still relies a lot on power imports from the region to plug the huge deficit.

The current Kariba water crisis is linked to the El Nino-induced drought that is ravaging the whole of southern Africa.

The drought is also threatening electricity generation at Africa’s biggest hydropower plant, the Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique.

Experts say hydropower accounts for 21 percent of all electricity that is generated in the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), a common electricity market for 12 regional countries.

Last month, Zesa was compelled by the prevailing situation to warn that Zimbabwe risked reverting to rolling blackouts soon, as the power utility was also struggling to raise cash needed to import electricity.

Zesa chief executive Josh Chifamba told Parliament that due to the current shortages of hard cash, they were failing to raise the $5 million needed to import adequate power every week.

He revealed that Zesa was at the moment only managing to access $1,5 million from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

Zesa has reported that it is owed more than $1 billion by its customers, including industries and individual households who have all borne the brunt of the country’s dying economy, which has seen thousands of companies shutting down and hundreds of thousands of jobs being shed over the past five years alone. Daily News