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 station’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 StationZimbabwe River Authority – Pindula
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…
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.