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Zimbabwe power shortages to worsen as Kariba halts generation

Power outages in Zimbabwe are expected to increase as the Kariba South hydroelectric power station on the Zambezi River, which generates 1 050MW, is shutting down due to water shortages.

Kariba, Zimbabwe’s only reliable power station, has since been directed to stop power generation until January 2023 as it has exhausted its 2022 water allocation to “avert risk of total shutdown” at Lake Kariba

In a letter to the Zimbabwe Power Company managing director, Zambezi River Authority chief executive Munyaradzi Munodawafa said Kariba South Bank Power station must close immediately citing the same reasons.

“We refer to the above subject matter as well as to the current Water Purchase Agreement between the Zambezi River Authority, Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC)/Kariba Hydro Power Company (Private) Limited (KHPC) and ZESCO Limited.

“Further reference is made to the High Level Joint Technical Committee Meetings of 10th and 25th November 2022 held between the parties to the Water Purchase Agreement for Kariba,” read the letter.

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“Please be advised that as of 25th November 2022, Kariba South Bank Power Station had utilised 23.89 Billion Cubic Meters (BCM) of water, accounting for 1.39 BCM (or 6.16%) above the 2022 water allocation of 22.50 BCM.

“Given that the Kariba Reservoir usable storage currently stands at a paltry 2.98 BCM or 4.60% full, and that ZESCO Limited still has a positive balance of 2.44BCM (10.82%) as of 25th November 2022, 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 later 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.”

Munodawafa added that 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 run out by mid-December 2022 or much earlier.

He added: “Guided by the Water Purchase Agreement and the provisions of the ZRA Acts, as well 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.”

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