ENERGY and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi says Zimbabwe has sealed a deal with the Hidroeléctrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), an IPP owned by the Mozambican government, which will see Zimbabwe purchasing an additional 100 MW of energy to ease an energy crisis that has affected homes, businesses, and institutions in Zimbabwe over the past six months.
Chasi says he met with his Mozambican counterpart Max Tonela in Maputo last week, where the deal was signed.
The deal will however only provide slight and non-significant relief for Zimbabwe whose power shortages have been exacerbated by low electricity generation at Kariba North and South amid concerns over fast receding lake water levels due to drought in the dam’s catchment areas.
But even at the current reduced power output levels, the two hydro power stations at Lake Kariba for Zimbabwe and Zambia still release significant amounts of water, which have worsened the situation at the already overflowing Cahora Bassa Hydro Electric Dam.
In May this year, Cahora Bassa had to increase discharges into downstream Zambezi River in order to safeguard Mozambique’s largest, most efficient and main source of hydro electric power supply as levels in the reservoir have been fast rising.
Zimbabwe and Zambia generate power on the northern and southern banks of the Lake Kariba wall and share equally water from the world’s largest man-made inland lake, which is however receding fast following the drought last season.
The Zambezi River Authority has since rationed water consumption by Zimbabwe and Zambia’s power utilities, ZESCO and ZESA, which will see them generating at prescribed thresholds, 358 megawatts for Zimbabwe and 392MW for Zambia.
ZRA administers the affairs of Lake Kariba and Zambezi River on behalf of the riparian states, Zimbabwe and Zambia, straddled by the river stretching up as far as north western Zambia, where it begins its journey of 2 700 kilometres.
Mozambique, which operates the largest hydro power scheme in the region, is experiencing serious challenges dealing with dam overflow at Cahora Bassa Hydro Electric Dam following two recent powerful tropical cyclones.
Zimbabwe and Zambia have started electricity-supply restrictions following one of the worst droughts on record caused plunging water levels at the hydro-power dams it relies on for almost all its supplies, the state-owned power utility said.
The two countries depend heavily on the Lake Kariba for power, with Zimbabwe having rated capacity of 1 050 megawatts while Zambia can churn out a maximum of 1 080 megawatts from the US$5 billion giant water reservoir.
If power generation is unrestricted, the Kariba Dam that has maximum operating water level of 485 metres and minimum level of 475,5 metres and with reservoir’s water level at 480 metres and receding fast, risks depletion.