Zim on an electricity prayer as another drought looms

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By Leopold Munhende

ZIMBABWE’S power crisis is unlikely to end any time soon amid fears another drought is looming, Energy Minister Fortune Chasi warned this week.

The country’s foremost hydro-electric power station, Kariba is likely to shut-down for the first time since it was established in the last 1950s as water levels have hit record lows forcing the country into a crippling 18hr load-shedding schedule.

Chasi told a post-Cabinet media briefing Tuesday that the coming season could present further problems for power generation at Kariba.

“It has been posited that we are looking at possibly another drought, meaning that Kariba will be in sharp focus and that it will become more difficult to generate therefore.

“The situation on power really does not require a comment from me. I think all of us experience the challenges,” said Chasi.

“The dam is now at 23% full, leaving us with really 3 metres of live water which is water that is usable for generation of power. We continue to pray that we have rains and that if they occur they will be significant enough to improve our capacity to generate power.”

The Famine Early Warning System (FEWS), a US agency has already predicted a crisis is looming in rainfall and food for the 2019/2020 season.

After two weeks shuttling between Harare and Johannesburg, South Africa, Chasi managed to convince the neighbouring country’s State power producer Eskom to resume power supplies to the embattled Zesa, tied to a massive US$890 000 per week payment as part of a debt clearance plan to clear an outstanding US$25 million.

This follows a US$15 million payment to the same entity by a local bank.

Although the 400MW may ease the crisis to some extent, the situation has not been made better by Zesa’s subdued production at its Hwange, Harare and Munyati stations.

The three power stations are producing 42MW against a possible 60MW.

Kariba Power Station which at full capacity produces 1 039MW, is producing 461MW, leaving a shortfall of 582MW.

The country’s electricity demand stands at 1 400MW, according to Energy Ministry statistics.

Only a few of the 47 Independent Power Producers (IPPs) are adding to the national grid.

Chasi, who warned IPPs sitting on licences, is expected to fly to Mozambique for similar talks with Hydro Cabora Bassa (HCB).

He will be negotiating another 400MW deal.