Zimbabwe Looks to the Sun as Drought Hits Hydropower

Solar-panel

Zimbabwe is pushing forward with plans to build four new solar power plants, amid a drought that has battered its ability to generate hydroelectricity.

Severe dry conditions – linked to the El Niño weather phenomenon bringing extreme weather around the world – are affecting big and small producers of hydropower alike.

Phillip Muwungani of Chipendeke village, 70 km southeast of Mutare city, said his community’s vision of producing its own clean electricity using water is fading.

Drought has affected water levels in Chitora River which powers the Chipendeke micro hydro plant, making electricity generation erratic.

The plant, which supplies electricity to villagers, a school, a clinic and a business centre, was built under a sustainable energy initiative backed by the ZERO Regional Environment Organisation, the Zimbabwe Energy Council and international development groups.

“The situation doesn’t look good,” Muwungani said. “We are not sure if it will improve any time soon.”

At the national level too, drought has taken its toll on hydroelectric production.

Experts say the Kariba Dam on the border with Zambia, which provides almost 60 percent of Zimbabwe’s power, could lose its ability to generate electricity in around six months’ time unless water levels improve.

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