Zimbabweans will likely experience longer hours of load shedding as power generation at Kariba Hydro Power Station will be suspended for the remainder of the year due to low water levels at Kariba Dam.
Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) chief executive officer Munyaradzi Munodawafa revealed that the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), a subsidiary of ZESA Holdings, used more water than it had been allocated, necessitating the closure of the power plant until at least January 2023 to allow the dam to replenish.
Kariba Hydro Power Station is Zimbabwe’s only reliable power plant, as Hwange Thermal Power Station constantly breaks down due to ageing equipment while the other smaller thermal power plants are constantly affected by shortages of coal.
A letter dated 25 November 2022 addressed to the Zimbabwe Power Company by Munodawafa advising the company to shut down the Kariba South Bank Power Station, reads:
EXHAUSTION OF 2022 WATER ALLOCATION AND NEED FOR SHUTDOWN OF KARIBA SOUTH BANK POWER STATION TO AVERT RISK OF TOTAL SHUTDOWN OF POWER GENERATION OPERATIONS AT KARIBA
We refer to the above subject matter as well as to the current Water Purchase Agreement between the Zambezi River Authority, Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC)/Kariba Hydro Power Company (Private) Limited (KHPC) and ZESCO Limited. Further reference is made to the High Level Joint Technical Committee Meetings of 10th and 25 November 2022 held between the parties to the Water Purchase Agreement for Kariba.
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.
With the current performance of the 2022/2023 rainfall season in the Kariba Lower Catchment where the river flows are yet to improve and the associated inflows from the Upper Kariba Catchment which will only influence any potential increase in the Lake Level at Kariba during the later part of the first quarter of 2023, it is highly unlikely that there will be any reasonable inflow augmentation in the remaining period of the year 2022, giving little or no chance of improvement in the reservoir storage levels during the remaining period of the year 2022 and going into the first quarter of the year 2023.
If the current water utilisation above allocation at Kariba South Bank Power Station continues, the remaining water for power generation at Kariba (live storage) will be out by mid-December 2022 or much earlier.
Guided by the Water Purchase Agreement and the provisions of the ZRA Acts and as the agreed Reservoir Operational Framework under the Joint Technical Committee (JTC), where the Authority and the two Kariba Power Generation Utilities are obligated and have agreed to sustainably operate the reservoir, 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 when a further review of the substantive Hydrological Outlook at Kariba will be undertaken which will include consideration of the total reservoir live storage build-up which would have resulted from a shutdown of the Kariba South Bank Power Station power generation operations.