Zimbabwe gets 10-hour electricity cuts as drought hits hydropower

12 May 2019 - 16:03 By James Thompson
An official of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority inspects water levels on the Kariba Dam in Zimbabwe. File photo
An official of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority inspects water levels on the Kariba Dam in Zimbabwe. File photo
Image: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Zimbabwe has implemented 10-hour a day power cuts countrywide to avert the risk of running out of electricity within four months.

The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) said the water level at the Kariba Dam, which has been supplying the country with an average of 542 Megawatts through the hydropower station, has dwindled.

“We had very little in terms of rainfall influence into the lake and we have reached a point whereby the power generation has scaled down. If we do not scale down, we may have to shut down the entire situation around October because we won’t be having water,” said Zesa spokesman Fullard Gwasira.

Zimbabwe received its lowest rainfall in 40 years over the past rain season, a situation that could also see at least five million people in need of food aid.

The last time Zimbabwe had acute power shortages was in 2016 following a devastating drought.

But if Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) receive rainfall, the water level at the Kariba Dam will rise and the electricity situation should improve.

“The patterns that we depend on are not from Zimbabwe, it is from Zambia and DRC. Their significant rainfall upkeep should be able to rejuvenate the situation as the year progresses,” Gwasira said.

The load shedding exercise comes at a time when there’s peak demand for electricity because of winter.

As such, if conservation targets are not met, load shedding will go up to “Stage 2” whereby power cuts can go for 12-15 hours.

Zimbabwe requires 2,100 Megawatts but can only produce 1,000 Megawatts. The balance is imported from Eskom in South Africa and Hydro Cahora Bassa of Mozambique because the coal-fired Hwange thermal power station, as well as three smaller plants, are fragile and dilapidated due to age.

The power cuts will add to ordinary Zimbabweans' high cost of living because they will be forced to look for alternative power sources such as gas and paraffin.

“The demand for LP gas will certainly go up and our prices depend on the foreign currency exchange. It could come to a point whereby people will find it expensive, but still, it will be the only option,” said Siboniso Tsheza, a fuel dealer.

According to government statistics, only 40 percent of the country’s population has access to electricity.


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