ENERGY minister Fortune Chasi yesterday revealed that water levels in Lake Kariba were so low that current supplies will only be able to generate power for the next 14 weeks, paving way for deeper power cuts in the country.
In a ministerial statement in the National Assembly, Chasi said the power situation was dire.
Earlier, when Chasi appeared before the Gabbuza Joel Gabuza-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Energy, he said heads would roll at power utility, Zesa Holdings.
He said those involved in shady energy deals, which saw the country losing millions of dollars to projects such as the Gwanda solar project, would be brought to book.
“The hydrological condition of Kariba Dam is that last week, the dam was 32% full and on Monday, it was 29% full, and if that trend continues, this means that in theory, within 14 weeks, Kariba will not be able to have power,” Chasi said.
“Zimbabwe and Zambia are allowed enough water to generate 358 megawatts (MW) and during the rainy season, they were allowed 418MW.”
Chasi said power usage was expected to rise from 350MW to 600MW during the winter season and this would worsen the situation, adding that load-shedding was here to stay.
“The shortages of foreign currency in the country has had a negative bearing on electricity supplies and the current electricity import bill is $83 million and as a result neighbouring countries are reluctant to supply electricity to Zimbabwe. We export 80MW of electricity daily to Namibia,” he said.
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The country is enduring its worst rolling power cuts in three years, and although its mines have been spared so far, analysts say the cuts will hurt economic revival efforts. Shortages of foreign currency have hampered Zimbabwe’s ability to import fuel, while Zesa is owed $200 million by government, companies and individuals.
Chasi told the Energy Committee that power blackouts lasting up to 10 hours could not be avoided as Zimbabwe is producing 1 100MW a day against a demand of 1 500MW.
The country required $96 million to import more than 200MW from regional suppliers like South Africa’s Eskom and Mozambique’s Hydro Cahora Bassa and Electricidade de Moçambique, said Chasi.
Zimbabwe owed the utilities $70 million for previous imports.
“There is no guarantee that there will be water, what we are seeing is a southward movement in water levels at Kariba. If the trend goes like that, we will probably say just after 14 weeks Kariba will not generate any megawatts,” Chasi said.
Kariba, the largest electricity producer in Zimbabwe with a capacity of 1 050MW, is generating less than a third of its installed capacity due to low water levels caused by a severe drought.
Zimbabwe commissioned an additional 300MW at Kariba last year, its biggest investment in electricity in more than 25 years, but a lack of investment is blamed for the current power shortages.
In a ministerial statement, Chasi said most problems in the energy sector were caused by lack of respect of law, and lack of corporate governance. Chasi said there was need to ensure that each parastatal in the energy sector is manned by qualified boards and management in order to have sustainable energy in the country.
The minister also told MPs that electricity tariffs will not increase as government was financially supporting Zesa. He said Zesa is owed $1,2 billion, with the largest chunk being local authorities owing $300 million and government departments $32 million.
On winter wheat, Chasi said farmers will be supplied with power four days per week.
— BY VENERANDA LANGA/REUTERS