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The Herald – Zimbabwe
The very large solar power project, 2000MW, announced by President Mnangagwa this week will be a far more reliable source of power than the long-mooted Batoka Gorge hydro-electric scheme, now that we have seen the effects of severe drought on Lake Kariba and its power stations.
If Batoka had been built five years ago we would still have a very serious energy deficit, since both hydro schemes would be generating at far below their rating as Zambezi River flows would be very low.
A figure of 2 400 megawatts is frequently quoted for Batoka, 1 200MW each for the Zambian and Zimbabwean power stations. But Lake Batoka will have very little storage, the lake being long and narrow.
The Zambezi, as we are now all aware, has a very big range of flow volumes between high water, when the floods come down, and low water at the end of the dry season. This means that while each Batoka station will generate its 1 200MW for a couple of months while the floods flow, by November that might be cut to less than 400MW in a normal year. And in the sort of drought year like we are experiencing, each station might fall below 100MW.
However, in your hypothetical normal year, while Batoka South is going flat out in April, the 1 050MW Kariba South is ambling along at, say, 400MW with the rest of the flood water raising the lake level quickly. As Batoka cuts back, Kariba South runs more turbines, using the huge storage capacity of that dam. But adding up the two figures, you quickly find that it is unlikely that the Batoka South-Kariba South pair will ever average much more than 1 400MW.
This admittedly is twice the average that Kariba South can generate in a normal year. While Kariba South, with its recent extensions, can now generate 1 050MW flat out, there was no extra water flowing into the lake to allow a continuous maximum output. So, the average output of Kariba South remains the 750MW it was before the extensions. Floodgates have not been opened at Lake Kariba for a long time. Every drop of water in the Zambezi downstream of the dam wall has flowed through the two power stations.
The Kariba South Extension was useful on other grounds, giving flexibility to Zesa. There is a large gap between peak power demand and what is needed at, say, 1am. The extension allowed Zesa to cut output back a lot at 1am, relying on other stations, and then turn on all the taps when peak power was required. And if Batoka is ever built, then that extra generating capacity will be useful for half the year to use up faster the stored water in Lake Kariba, water that was stored by cutting back Kariba South consumption in the floods.
It was this lack of increase in energy, as opposed to maximum power, that drove Zimbabwean energy planners for three decades from the early 1980s to stress the need for more thermal capacity, to take the base load, before extending Kariba South to cope with peak demand. Bad advice to Government a few years ago and Kariba South Extension was built before Hwange Thermal Extension, accompanied by refurbishment at that station. If we had done the two extensions the right way round load-shedding would be limited right now to a couple of hours a day at peak hours.
This is why the Hwange extension and refurbishment is so critical. Coal stations are far more expensive to run than hydro stations, because coal costs money while the water in a river is free, at least once the dam wall is paid for. But they work in droughts.
The advent of commercial viable solar stations changes the equations again. The big Hwange Thermal is still needed, plus the second big thermal station on the drawing board for the past 35 years. We need power at night as well as in a drought.
But for Zimbabwe a big solar station makes a lot of sense, because we have a very large storage dam in Lake Kariba and an oversized power station in Kariba South. Operating the solar and hydro as a pair means that when the sun is shining Kariba South just ticks over if only to keep the Zambezi flowing downstream.
But a large block of the daily water ration for Kariba South could simply be left in the lake as the solar station carries the load, with help from the thermals. Come sunset, when power demand starts to peak in any case, that saved ration could be used to run Kariba South flat out, and flat out all night if necessary. Lake Kariba would be, in effect, the storage battery for the solar station. And like hydro fuel, solar fuel is free. The main cost is the capital cost of the station.
With water stored in sunny days, there would be extra on cloudy days, when the solar station output was reduced. And even droughts would be less of a nuisance. In a drought year there is less cloud and more sun. In any case a 2 000MW solar station could carry Zimbabwean business in daylight hours without anything else feeding the grid, even if the drought was really bad.
And that is why we need to push the giant solar station a lot more than the Batoka scheme. The one works in droughts; the other does not. And Kariba storage takes care of the nights.
The Herald – Zimbabwe
By: Strive Masiyiwa
Today, 1.2 billion people reside in Africa, a figure set to quadruple by the end of the century. That will be nearly 5 billion mouths to feed; a monumental figure, but one that doesn’t frighten me. This is why: in 1957, the population of Africa was 250 million, less than a quarter of what it is today, and if our fathers were able to cope with that scale of growth, then I am convinced that we can too. An incredible rise in education and technological opportunities mean we have the necessary resources and are now the most educated generation in history.
We also live in the most peaceful period in recent history. The blood shed of the Ghanaian coup in 1966, Idi Amin in Uganda and Mobutu in Zaire is all over, and since last year’s Eritrea — Ethiopia peace summit, there is no ongoing conflict between two African nations. This is very important for economic prosperity. It does not mean we don’t have conflict, but we don’t have interstate conflict at present.
That said, we have emerging challenges to contend with. We are not immune to the radicalization in places like Somalia, Nigeria and the Sahel region that is not only disrupting social order but also causing massive population displacement.
Going back to agriculture, even more devastating is the global climate emergency. In March and April 2019, Cyclones Idai and Kenneth tore through south eastern Africa, leading to tremendous loss of life with many still unaccounted for; estimates indicate that 1.7 million people were affected.
Today, 27 million people are facing acute food shortage in the horn of Africa and that number might grow to 47 million if nothing is done. I have been involved in the efforts to support those affected by the devastating effects of the cyclones and have witnessed their resilience.
I am convinced, more than ever before, that agriculture will be at the heart of the continent’s journey towards inclusive economic growth, affording our people a decent living and continuing to build their resilience to shock. Never again shall we see suffering on the scale of Ethiopia’s mass starvation in the 80s where close to 8 million people became famine victims, and over 1 million died. This transformation has been ushered in by focused and intentional investment in Ethiopia’s agricultural sector.
This is why, despite having no background in agriculture, I joined other leaders to set up the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) about 15 years ago.
In September, I stepped down as chair of the AGRA Board. Taking stock of our progress, the journey so far has been one of impressive results, positive impacts and fruitful collaborations. AGRA has played a role in giving over 22 million farmers in 18 African countries access to improved seed varieties that have doubled and sometimes tripled yields. These are farmers, 70% of Africa’s population, who own less than 5 hectares of land. This has been made possible through the establishment of over 110 small, African owned seed companies that have produced around 800,000 MT of seeds.
This is all the more impressive considering when we started, only three countries in sub-Saharan Africa were able to produce seed through less than 10 seed companies. Farmers now have easy access, not just to seed, but other inputs through the network of village shops that AGRA and partners have helped to establish.
As a result, the average distance traveled by farmers in search of inputs has reduced from 60km in 2006 to 10km today, and in Kenya it is as low as 4km. Markets have also been opened up for farmers to sell their produce resulting in increased incomes and improved livelihoods. The private sector has become increasingly engaged. The results have been tremendous – reduced poverty, general economic growth and better nutrition.
I am truly grateful to African governments that accepted the challenge to prioritize agriculture. I am also grateful to partners that joined us in this endeavor and entrusted us with their resources. These include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and many others. We would not have reached 22 million farmers without your support.
The capacity to produce food is no longer the fundamental problem, as the tools for this are now generally accepted. From the day I started as the Chair of the Board of AGRA, I have never doubted that we would declare full food sufficiency by 2030.
The challenge now is to produce this food sustainably and in a way that generates prosperity and healthy jobs for our people and looks after the environment keeping our soils fertile and productive. We will not be able to build wealth for all through agriculture, and migration to cities will continue unabated unless we re-imagine our rural communities in a way that allows the next generation to aspire to a life at the sharp end of agriculture.