Dickson Mangena, Business Reporter
POWER generation at the Kariba hydro-power station has remained depressed with the facility generating at just 50 percent of the installed capacity as the dam did not receive much water inflow from the just ended rainy season.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development Engineer Partson Mbiriri said the catchment of the dam was in the northern countries that did not receive enough rains compared to heavy rains which caused floods in Zimbabwe.
Kariba Dam draws its water from the Zambezi River whose catchment area is in Zambia and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Eng Mbiriri said because of the reduced inflows, the station was only generating about 380 megawatts (MW) a day.
“We are not yet out of the woods, we have to manage that water sparingly, we cannot afford to drain it all away in terms of generation. So what is happening right now is we are generating on average something like 380 MW and at full throttle Kariba will be giving us 750 megawatts so we are currently at 50 percent of our installed capacity,” said Eng Mbiriri.
He said water levels in the giant dam had dropped by seven metres before the rainy season but only three metres were recovered during the last rainy season.
“We are delighted that the water level has risen but we are still short of about two or three metres of where we ought to be for a standard year and for standard average generation at Kariba. Although we had a lot of floods in the country at the equator it was not raining as much.
“We had this unfortunate issue because most of the water that goes into the Kariba comes from the Gwayi and Shangani rivers and a few other rivers from the south bank and not from the north, which is normally where most of the run off comes from,” Eng Mbiriri said.
He said water was still a major problem that could affect the expansion project.
“Of course with the new units coming on it would be sad if the new units are ready to generate power but there is no water in the lake. We need to manage that water so that we have water in the dam,” said Eng Mbiriri.
He said the expansion project was on course and the first unit was likely to be fired before the end of the year in December, with the capacity of adding 150 MW into the grid.
“I want to assure you that as far as the expansion of Kariba is concerned we are on course, we expect the first unit to start giving power from the 24th of December 2017 adding about 150 megawatts. And subsequently the second unit will come on stream towards the end of March 2018 and putting into the grid an additional 300 MW and that is if we have water in the lake,” Eng Mbiriri said.
He said Kariba was not the solution to the power challenges and should not act as the base load of the power grid in the country going forward.
“What we must do going forward is that Kariba is not ought to be used for base load but we are working on upgrading thermal stations that should act as the base load and Kariba as a supplement if there are any shortfalls,” said Eng Mbiriri.
Kariba South expansion project is funded to the tune of US$533 million and is being undertaken by a Chinese firm, Sino Hydro.