Low water levels force Kariba to cut power generation

Power generation at Kariba has been slashed to half of capacity due to falling water levels in the dam.

A spokesman for Zambian power utility Zesco, Henry Kapata, says power supply on both sides of the Kariba power plant had been reduced to 500 megawatts (MW) each from total capacities of around 1,000 MW.

“The Zambezi River Authority gave us an annual allocation of 19 billion cubic metres of water and this means we can only generate up to 500 megawatts each,” Kapata said on Monday.

A joint technical committee bulletin issued on Feb 19 by companies including power utilities in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique indicated that water levels in the Kariba Dam had dropped to 43% of its capacity.

“As the inflows into the Kariba and Kafue Gorge upper reservoirs are lower than the outflows, the reservoirs’ storage is decreasing,” the bulletin said. 

Zimbabwe last year commissioned a new generator at Kariba, which added 300MW to the grid. Zimbabwe’s power imports have since fallen from US$15 million a month to US$3 million, according to data from Zesa Holdings.

Under a US$1.2 billion Chinese deal, work has begun to add two thermal units at Hwange, which will supply 600MW.

Last week, Zambia and Zimbabwe said they would announce the contractor for the new Batoka Gorge hydropower plant in September. The plant is expected to produce 2,400MW for the two countries when completed.