Zimbabweans have been warned to prepare for crippling power cuts in the coming few months as the El Nino weather phenomenon is expected to negatively impact rainfall patterns resulting in reduced water inflows at Lake Kariba, the site of the country’s most reliable power plant.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, Gloria Magombo, told the Economic Policy Dialogue breakfast Indaba held by the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) recently that the business sector will bear the brunt of the load shedding. She said:
We will have a feel of these challenges [deepening power crisis] and I want to just also forewarn you given that we are expecting an El Nino, which will have an effect on Kariba water levels.
Business Times reported that Zimbabwe’s rivers contribute about 20% of the inflows into Lake Kariba.
Munyati River feeds the Sanyati River, which then supplies water to the lake. The other source is the Gwayi River.
However, the rivers are hardly flowing due to a poor 2022/23 rainy season across Zimbabwe.
Magombo said the country is not expecting Gwayi and Sanyati to significantly contribute to inflows in the Kariba Dam due to El Nino. She said:
With the El Nino phenomenon predicted, we are not expecting much from these two rivers (Gwayi and Sanyati) hence more power curtailment in the country is expected.
We are hoping and praying that inflows from Zambia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo into the lake will come in March or May when Barotse plains (or wetlands) will start releasing water into Kariba.
But from now we will certainly experience these power curtailments.
On 20 October 2023, the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) was generating 444MW from Kariba and 979MW from Hwange. Independennt Power Producers (IPPs) were generating 39MW.
That means if, or when Kariba Power Station completely shuts down due to low water levels in the dam, the country will depend solely on Hwange, IPPs and imports.