ZIMBABWE’s giant hydro power plant at Lake Kariba is set for decommissioning next month in the wake of fast dwindling water levels. A Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) official, Engineer Bernard Chizengeya, revealed this at a Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) media workshop in Harare yesterday.
He said currently, the Kariba dam level is at 478m and power production will cease when it gets to 475m, which may happen in September or October.
However, in a separate event across town, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Mr George Guvamatanga, told a post budget breakfast meeting yesterday that the arrangements that Government has put in place now on electricity “should hopefully guarantee us increased supply from tomorrow or Wednesday.”
This is on the back of arrangements that Zimbabwe has made with regional power suppliers.
Indications are even if it rains, for instance in October this year, the effects on water levels and power generation at Kariba will be felt in March the following year. “At Kariba Dam, there is a level that cannot be used for power generation,” he said.
“The minimum is 475m level and we are at 478m which means we are left with only three metres, so by September we may not be able to generate electricity from Kariba,” Eng Chizengeya said.
However, Government immediately said it expected the power supply situation in the country to improve this week following arrangements it has made to pay foreign suppliers for both legacy and current supplies.
Mr Guvamatanga said arrangements that Government has put in place now on electricity “should hopefully guarantee us increased supply from tomorrow or Wednesday.”
He said this would be made possible as Government has been engaging with suppliers of electricity and have agreed on some of the payment terms. “In terms of the debt, I think the first instalment was made last week. We are going to be making weekly instalments for the legacy debts and we have also agreed that we pay on current basis for the supply of new imports,” said Mr Guvamatanga.
He said Government has also made arrangements with the private sector “to ring fence adequate resources to pay for at least 400MW of electricity per month.”“We certainly expect the power situation, having concluded with one of the suppliers, to improve starting tomorrow or from Wednesday. We are going to be engaging other suppliers as well to try and see if we can put into place a similar structure.”
He, however, said there is a need to find resources that will be ring fenced to enable and pay for the imports.
Rolling power outages have seen most parts of the country going without electricity for over 12 hours.
Zimbabwe owes South Africa’s Eskom and Mozambique’s HCB about US$74 million, resulting in the two reducing electricity supplies.
Electricity generation at Kariba is now down to 180MW which is not enough to power Harare alone.
Eng Chizengeya said the shortfall could be offset by imports.
Zimbabwe has been facing acute power shortage resulting in prolonged hours of blackouts for both domestic and industrial consumers.
Industry has bemoaned the power shortages which have significantly cut down on production and increased cost as running on alternative energy sources such as generators has proven to be unsustainable.
Currently, the country’s power generation is at 944MW against a national demand of 1700 MW.
Apart from the low water levels at Kariba, ZPC has bemoaned old machinery and lack of foreign currency for importation of turbines and generators among other essential machinery.
Parent company, Zesa is also owed $1,2 billion and Eng Chizengeya made a passionate plea to consumers to meet their bill obligations.
“Debts have crippled Zesa, we should have a culture of paying for what we use,” he said.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. Indications are that work on Hwange Unit 7 and 8 is progressing well and on target.
On completion, Hwange 7 and 8 will produce 600MW.