Zimbabwe’s power crisis is set to worsen after the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) ordered the closure of Kariba South Hydroelectric Power Station until January next year due to water shortages.
ZRA, which manages the Zambezi River waters and maintains the Kariba Dam complex on behalf of the governments of Zimbabwe and Zambia, said the Zimbabwe Power Company, a power generation unit of ZESA Holdings, has used more than its water allocation.
In suspending power generation at Kariba South Power Station, ZRA CEO, Munyaradzi Munodawafa said if the current water utilization above allocation continues , the remaining water for power generation at Kariba (live storage) will run out by mid-December 2022 or much earlier.
“Guided by the Water Purchase Agreement and the provisions of ZRA Acts as well as the Agreed Operational Framework under the Joint Technical Committee, where the authority and the two Kariba power generation utilities are obligated and have agreed to sustainably operate the reservoir, ZRA is left with no choice but to firmly guide that ZPC immediately ensures that generation activities at the Kariba 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.”
This means ZESA will start to impose a painful load-shedding .
There is no doubt, the power crisis will undermine economic recovery if the crisis is not resolved.
The bout of rolling blackouts would cost the economy billions of dollars and also heaping miseries on consumers.
Zimbabwe is still recovering from recent economic contractions recorded between 2019 and 2020.
Business leaders have constantly said they feel the heat of power cuts as they are forced to use expensive generators.
The crisis, which means the power utility will be generating less than 1000 megawatts (MW) daily after the closure of Kariba power station, comes at a time when ZESA already lacks the capacity to meet a national demand of about 1 850MW.
This means Zimbabwe will be forced to import more power, which will come at a huge cost because regional power utilities including Eskom of South Africa are currently battling power shortages.
However, it should be important to note that the power crisis facing Zimbabwe is largely due to poor planning on the part of ZESA.
The power utility has also been grounded by corruption, according to a recent forensic audit.
It should also be noted that ZESA has been over the years denied a viable power tariff to sustain its operations.