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Zesa warns of looming power cuts

...as water supplies dwindle at Lake Kariba

By Thabani Zwelibanzi

Zesa has warned it may have to resort to load shedding to manage electricity supply, as depressed water levels in Lake Kariba have reduced power generation capacity.

The power utility said the low rainfall received during the 2018/19 rainy season had reduced inflow into Lake Kariba, forcing the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) to reduce the amount of water for power generation from 19 billion cubic metres to 16 billion cubic metres.

ZRA, which manages Lake Kariba on behalf of Zimbabwe and Zambia, hopes by doing this, the hydropower generation plant will be able to produce electricity until the next rainy season.

This will see Zimbabwe’s electricity generation from Lake Kariba fall by a third, Zesa advised in a statement on Wednesday night.

“To this end,” the power utility said, “electricity generation at Kariba Power Station will thus be reduced to an average of 358MW from the planned average of 542MW as a direct result of this water allocation reduction and this has led to a power supply gap.”

Ominously, Zesa further warned that it will review the water supply situation and its power generation capacity as the year progresses.

It said every effort was being made to improve power generation capacity to ensure that disruptions are kept at a minimal, before warning that in the event “that this supply and demand equilibrium is not maintained, the power utility would have no choice but to curtail to some loads to restore grid stability”.

The situation is further compounded by that electricity generation at small thermal power stations in Harare, Bulawayo and Munyati cannot be relied upon as a backup option as these use antiquated machinery that is prone to the occasional breakdown.

Zesa pleaded with its customers to switch off all non-essential electrical gadgets to save power.

In addition, the power utility urged large power users to reduce power usage during peak periods from 5 am to 10 am and 5 pm to 10 pm.

Zimbabwe has been experiencing a reprieve from power cuts for the past three years, but a drought this year has exposed the folly of relying on hydropower for electricity generation.

Zesa has in the past sought other sources of electricity generation like solar and a diesel plant in Dema some 40km from Harare, but these projects have often been bogged down by allegations of tender improprieties and corruption.

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