It appears the good times are coming to an end, my friends. The tarot cards have spoken, and power cuts are in our future. We’ve had a nice two months, but load-shedding is coming back with a vengeance.
The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), which manages Kariba Dam and Zambezi River waters says we got less than expected inflows this past rainfall season. As a result, the authority slashed water allocation for power generation by a whopping 25%.
Said ZRA CEO,
With the 2022/23 rainfall season having effectively ended in April, the Kariba catchment is no longer experiencing any rainfall activities.
As per normal trend following the end of a rainfall season, flows of the Zambezi River and its tributaries are now receding and this downward trend is expected to continue until the commencement of the next rainfall season (2023/24 rainfall season).
As quoted by Business Times
Call it climate change or whatever you want to call it but it seems inflows into Kariba have been decreasing every year for as long as I can remember. Less water, less power generation, it’s as simple as that.
This means we really should expect the bleakness of last December, it is in the cards. Water levels will likely dip so low to the point where we won’t get any meaningful power from Kariba.
As it stands, August will be terrible. Right now we only have a few power cuts here and there because it’s still winter agriculture season. The ZRA told us months ago that,
We will not be that strict until the end of the winter agriculture season in July. After July, we will be tough with ZESA and ZESCO…
So, if you can, fill up those buckets with electricity, dark nights are coming. If only Tesla’s Powerwalls were within reach, oh, and also if they could store up electricity for months.
As depressing as that all is, in the quote above, the ZRA CEO finished off by saying, “Next year, it’s likely to be worse.“
You didn’t expect anything different, did you, dear Zimbabwean? When will you learn?
So, Hwange then?
Yeah, the green revolution be damned man. We need Hwange to pick it up. It would have been ideal if the other hydroelectric dams we have could produce meaningfully but that’s not the case and so we turn to coal with expectant hearts.
With climate change and poor management decimating Kariba, the Hwange power station should pick up the slack.
It’s not going to be able to because over the past few months, the lean months so to speak, Hwange was contributing in the 400-600MW range with Kariba almost consistently producing over 800MW. Demand is over 1400MW.
Hwange is not able to pick up the slack, the 400-600MW it’s been registering is about the best it can do with what it has.
The government disagrees with me here. They say Hwange will be able to handle the base load, with Kariba coming in during peak times despite the water rationing. In their defence, electricity demand will drop as the winter season ends, so the situation may not be as bad as I am imagining.
I hope that’s the case but it still leads me to the question, ‘Going forward, what should we invest more in, thermal power stations or hydroelectricity?’
To coal or not to coal
I know it should not be a question in 2023 when the world is moving away from dinosaur juice. However, if rains are going to be this unreliable, is the hydro basket one we should be putting our eggs in? Coal is not sexy but we still have tonnes upon tonnes of the stuff just waiting to be mined.
I don’t know. Personally, at this point, I would prefer we invested in two more units at Hwange rather than new generators, or whatever else is needed at Kariba.
I’m curious to hear what you guys think though. Should we take one for the rest of the planet and guarantee darkness in Zimbabwe for the greater good of future generations or should prioritise lifting the Zim economy at a dirty cost?