According to experts and Eskom, despite South Africa’s well-known “humanitarian approach” to Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe is now on its own as a result of its electricity shortages, which are only expected to get worse given SA’s energy crisis.
Energy and political analyst Tshepo Kgadima warned Zimbabweans to prepare for a dark Christmas as the country awaits a recovery from the rainy season after the Kariba South hydroelectric power station on the Zambezi River was shut down due to a decline in water levels.
“I don’t know how they would do that under the current climate, previous years, let’s say seven, eight years ago, that was feasible, but today is not at all, it’s not feasible,” he said.
“And if they do it now, on political grounds and not on technical grounds or obeying the laws of physics then South Africa’s grid is going to collapse.”
Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha also said although the power utility has a contract with Zimbabwe to supply electricity, cannot supply more than it does now because “Eskom does not have any access to capacity”.
“But you know our own problems here in South Africa, so that should go for an answer.”
Kgadima said SA has an at least 22 000 megawatts shortage, “so you can’t, take out 10 000 megawatts to Zimbabwe. They just have to stay in the dark.
“Here is the thing that we need to maybe ask the river system has a hydro capacity of 20 000 megawatts, now they knew this how many years ago? How come they’ve never done anything to increase that capacity?” he asked.
“That’s why this closure is not permanent it’s temporary until they can recover from the rainfall… and those tributaries will continue and they’ll always have rainfall that is above average,” he added.
“It’s a matter of geography that they will have that much water or that much rainfall, it’s just that the water ends up in the Indian Ocean.”
“So the South Bank, which they’re closing now, is just to divert water into that dam so that you then elicit over time. So in January by all accounts they’ll be able to resume electricity production and return those turbines into service, generally it’s just a temporary hiccup.”
Another energy analyst Ted Blom agreed with Kgadima and said Zimbabwe and Zambia have been in power deficit because “the early rains were less than usual”.
He also noted that if the SA government does not play hero again, Zimbabwe’s shortfall would not affect the country, “other than their demand has of course now exceeded supply and Eskom is also unable to supply the shortfall”.
No usable water
According to a letter dated 25 November from the Zambezi River Authority, which runs the Kariba Dam jointly owned by Zimbabwe and neighbouring Zambia, the dam no longer has any usable water to continue undertaking power generation operations.
The authority noted that the Kariba South Hydro Power Station which provides Zimbabwe with about 70% of its electricity and has been producing significantly less than its capacity of 1,050 megawatts in recent years due to receding water levels caused by droughts.
The authority’s chief executive officer Munyaradzi Munodawafa, said “the Zambezi River Authority is left with no choice but immediately ensures that generation activities at the South Bank Power Station are wholly suspended henceforth until January 2023,” for a further review of the substantive Hydrological Outlook at Kariba.
“It is highly unlikely that there will be any reasonable inflow augmentation in the remaining period of the year 2022, giving little or no chance of improvement in the reservoir storage levels during the remaining period of the year 2022 and going into the first quarter of the year 2023,” Munodawafa added.
“If the current water utilisation above allocation at Kariba South Bank Power Station continues, the remaining water for power generation at Kariba (live storage) will run out by mid-December 2022 or much earlier.”