Electricity generation on Lake Kariba remains ‘stressed’ owing to drought

– Given that the outcome of the rainfall forecast is generally below normal, the Authority has maintained the 16 BCM water allocation for the year 2024, Zambezi River Authority revealed.

John Cassim

Harare, Zimbabwe – The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) has reported that electricity generation on Lake Kariba could remain suppressed following a decline of water inflows into the Lake from end of January this year.

The two nations that share the Zambezi River’s resources, Zimbabwe and Zambia, are already experiencing challenges, with load shedding of up to eight hours in place in Zimbabwe.

Due to the decrease, Engineer Munyaradzi Munodawafa, Chief Executive of the Zambezi River Authority, declared this week that the water allotment for electricity production will stay at 16 billion cubic metres through 2024.

“Given that the outcome of the rainfall forecast is generally below normal, the Authority has maintained the 16 BCM water allocation for the year 2024 providing for combined annual average power production of 428MW, shared equally. 

The water allocation of 8 BCM per power utility, translates into an average power production of 214MW per Utility to the end of March 2024 when the 1st Quarter 2024 hydrological review falls due as per standing operational framework for Kariba dam reservoir operations,” Engineer Munodawafa said.

In contrast to the 12% recorded on January 1st, 2024, the live storage as of January 29th, this year was 16. 49%.

The lake level then started to gradually drop as a result of low inflow and decreased rainfall activity on and around the lake, which were linked to the lower-than-average rainfall that the Kariba watershed experienced during the 2023–2024 rainfall season. 

The lake level was 477.66 metres on March 6th, with 9.72 billion cubic metres (BCM) of useable water stored, or 15.00 percent of the total live storage. 

The lake level was marginally higher at 477.68 metres with 9.81 billion cubic metres of stored usable water, or 15.15 percent live storage, on the same date last year.

With respect to the flow of 992 m3/s recorded on March 6, 2023, the flows at Chavuma Gauging Station increased from 350 m3/s on January 1, 2024, to a peak flow of 530 m3/s on January 23, 2024. Following this, the flows decreased to 357 m3/s on March 6, 2024. 

The Zambezi River flows at Victoria Falls increased from 492 m3/s on January 1st, 2024, to 800 m3/s on March 4th, 2024. After that, the flows have been decreasing, and on March 6th, 2024, a flow of 794 m3/s was recorded, which is less than the 2,569 m3/s recorded on the same date the previous year.

The Kariba Catchment has experienced Below-Normal Rainfall due to the ongoing El Nino phenomenon. 

This is expected to continue until end of March 2024, which will have an impact on the two Kariba Power Generation Utilities, ZESCO Limited (ZESCO) and Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC)/Kariba Hydro Power Company (KHPC). 

Impact in Zambia 

With effect from Monday, March 11, 2024, ZESCO Managing Director Victor Mapani has said that the business will implement an 8-hour daily load shedding programme in Zambia. 

The decision was made after a careful evaluation of the water levels in the Zambezi and Kafue basins.

During a press conference in Lusaka, Mapani disclosed that load shedding has become necessary because of the declining water levels, which have a direct impact on ZESCO’s ability to generate electricity and its viability, costing the company about US$ 35 million a month.

Effects in the Zimbabwean side

Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) daily updates state that the Kariba units began to experience problems on January 2, 2024, when they abruptly dropped from producing 725MW of power to 80MW of power.

Since then, Kariba has declined but Hwange Thermal Units have increased across the nation.

Kariba’s production peaked at the end of January, but it then started to decline.  

Power generation in Zimbabwe on December 29 2023

Power generation suddenly dropped on Lake Kariba early January 2024

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