Record low water levels caused by years of drought are forcing the shutdown of the hydroelectric power plant responsible for generating 70% of Zimbabwe’s electricity. The Zambezi River Authority, which operates the Kariba Dam, ordered the shutdown on Nov. 25, saying in a letter the jointly Zimbabwe- and Zambia-owned Kariba South hydropower station had already used more than its 2022 water allocation and that usable storage was at just 4.6% of capacity. Climate change, mainly caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, is making droughts more frequent and severe.
The plant had been producing 572 MW of the 782 MW generated in Zimbabwe. (By way of comparison, the 400 MW shortfall caused by PG&E accidentally shutting down a gas plant in August 2020 accounted for “roughly 0.5%” of California’s power demand at the time.) Zimbabwe’s already-unreliable electrical grid will likely get even spottier with increasingly old and unreliable coal-fired power plants being called upon for more power. A government newspaper said Monday the expansion of a major coal plant, expected to come online by the end of the year, will help make up some of the lost capacity. (AP, Reuters, Bloomberg $, Al Jazeera; Climate Signals background: Drought)