Intensive load shedding is imminent as Kariba lake levels are too low to generate electricity

Edwin Chabuka Avatar
ZESA, Kariba Dam, 450MW, electricity

The water levels at Kariba lake have dropped to really low levels to the extent that by mid-December of 2022 there will be no more water to generate electricity. In fact, if we are to look at the Zambezi River Authority’s graphs, they show that the level has gone lower than the lowest point in history which is the 1995/96 season.

The Lake level has been decreasing steadily on account of low inflows from the mainstream Zambezi River, closing the period under review at 476.31m (5.63% usable storage) on 21st November 2022, compared to 479.32m (26.88% usable storage) recorded on the same date last year.

Zambezi River Authority

Zimbabwe used too much water

For those that were not aware, Zimbabwe shares the lake with Zambia. Each country’s power utility is allocated a certain amount of the lake’s water for power generation. However, Zimbabwe consumed an excessive amount of water for power generation this season.

The hydro power stationā€™s output for the quarter under review was 2.53% higher than the output in the same period last year. This was due to an increase in water allocation by Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) from 15 billion cubic meters in 2021 to 22.5 billion cubic meters in 2022. Kariba Power Station consumed 20.4Bm3 for power generation as of the end of Q3 2022, compared to a target of 17.4Bm3, leaving the station with 2.1Bm3 of generation capacity for the remainder of the year.

Zimbawe Power Company (ZPC)

What is more worrying is that at the moment Zimbabwe’s largest electricity-generating plant is the Kariba Dam Hydro power station. Currently, it is producing 598MW of electricity which is 65% of the total electricity production in Zimbabwe of 913MW. If it were to be shut down then the extent of power cuts and load shedding would be very intense.

ZPC asked to suspend power production at Kariba till Jan 2023

Because of such low levels of the Kariba dam and that our allocation was exceeded, ZPC has been asked by the Zambezi River Authority to stop consuming any more water to produce electricity.

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.

…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…

Zimbabwe River Authority – Pindula

The irony of it is that ZPC also states in their Q3 report that the Zambezi River Authority did allocate ZPC the extra water for electricity generation. It might be a case of inaccurate projections of how fast a rate the lake’s capacity will fall over the dry season.

Let’s hope the Hwange expansion goes live on time

Hwange thermal power station has been getting some maintenance for a while now but it seems we are getting very close to completion. On the official opening of the Southern Africa Power Pool HQ, Hon. Soda Zhemu announced that Unit 7 of the Hwange power station will be online in December 2022 providing 300MW to the grid. If this claim comes true then we might just not spend Christmas in the dark.

Unit 8 is also expected to go live by the end of Q1 2023 adding an additional 300MW onto the grid. That’s a total of 600MW which is enough to fill the hole that Kariba would have left behind. The biggest plus though is that we can use a bit less of Kariba and also be affected less by Kariba water levels if alternatives for power generation are contributing to the grid. But until then it seems you might want to consider solar backup power for the holidays.

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  1. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    These chaps seem to be taking us for a ride. At every turn, the reason for loadshedding seems to change. Recently, it was a damaged bearing from the Kariba power plant that had gone to SA to be fixed. If it is not the power station that is down, it’s the supply of water, or coal (for Hwange), that’s needed that’s unavailable.

    Even veld fires have been blamed for loadshedding.

    Nanhasi Winknell achiri kungotenga bhutsu.

  2. Chirasha

    Excuse me. How does the water get lost? I thought the water just gets recycled. Unless it’s all lost through evaporation. Why do they call it renewable energy?

    1. Noise maker

      After e water is used to turn e turbines it flows downstream, when it rains the dam gets filled up by feeder rivers and its catchment area. once full we start to generate power again. Thats how the dam losing terms of why its called renewable energy my teacher ako e science ne geography anoda kudzingwa basa kana kutiti zvikoro zvawakadzidza zvivharwe

    2. Damned Dam

      Some other hydroelectric dams can recirculate some of the water by pumping it back up into the dam, but not to 100%

    3. Mopo

      Yes you are right it is a renewable energy from an energy perspective but argument is there to call it otherwise stem from arguments narrowly related to power generation. But just like solar it depends on mother nature to be kind. The water is lost downstream after turning the turbines can be recovered yes and this is called pumped storage and can be an ideal source in some instances not always

  3. Roy

    Surely we have to register to vote next year… how came number 7 and 8 at kariba are draining more than expected we shouldnt have trusted the china

  4. Wake up

    Remember when Hwange was supposed to be expanded 20 years ago and Mugabe interfered with the process, Malaysia bla bla

    Now we’re paying the price plus we need to be starting to build for the needs of power 20 years from now. We don’t have to be continually living in a deficit.

  5. MinuteMan

    Zveku Hwange, its chasing a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. But anyone one can see this is where the road ends.

  6. Anonymous

    Register to vote.ikodzera yako kusarudza waunoda.

  7. Wasu

    Kuno kuzambia hakuna zvese izvozvo nekuti kukunaya ende muchitora magetsi panhu1

  8. Ntalasha Malama

    It’s simple put a water pump down stream to pump back the water into the dam. The loss could just be 20% and much of the water will be reusable

  9. Oblivion

    Day one of total darkness. I thought I could handle what was coming, but I was wrong. So wrong! All my devices, save one, are dead! They were my companions they were gone before I knew it! Battery saver mode couldn’t save them, not from this! Now the distant drone of generators is omnipresent, saturating my being, lulling and stimulating my senses at once in ceaseless dance. The one and only light left to me now is from my last charged screen. My last link to the world. I dug out two more back when the power lords were more merciful, granting us light through the witching hours, but they were 3 and 5 years old by then, with batteries like reanimated corpses… Slow, bloated and constantly groaning from their insesent hunger for more power! I should have known that even the nightly sacrament would be taken away. I was foolish!

    Damnit! Another low power warning? I don’t have long! I feel the eternal darkness creeping ever closer, stalking my sanity, jagged ebony teeth gnashing in anticipation of my flesh and soul! No! It can’t end like this! I must get out! I must find the promised live plug of prophecy! But where? I heard talk of sanctuaries out there, bastians of lumination ever glowing, left untouched by the power lords with the house of state at their core! Will they let a lowborn like me in? No! The sentries will capture and humiliate me before I even get close! I must find another way! Set out on a journey, halfway across the land to another grid. To the home of my progenitors, monument of what they hoped I could be… Yet how will they know I’m coming? I’m down to 4% and won’t make it till dawn!

    …Perhaps, this is fate. If only I had listened and gone to the land of Big Ben, where the tea is always hot, where The Eye keeps watch over th Thames and where the electrons flow eternal, but it’s too late now. I must make do or else all that awaits, is oblivion in darkness…

    1. Dead poet

      Woooow. Beautiful, Just beautifulšŸ˜Ŗ

  10. Cyber Poet

    This is a masterpiece,so comforting Even though we are wallowing in the dark because of Power poverty

  11. Al

    Pumping water back to the lake requires energy. It wouldn’t make sense to use the same electrical energy that to pump back there water. But if other forms of energy are used ie Solar then it would make sense.

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