Zimbabwe power firm says drought to cut supply, mulls higher tariffs

People watch as the spillway gates are opened at Kariba North Bank dam on Lake Kariba in a file photo. REUTERS/Mackson Wasamunu (ZAMBIA)

HARARE (Reuters) - Power generation at Zimbabwe's main hydro station could ease further due to a drought, the national electricity supplier said on Monday, adding that it plans to increase tariffs to raise money for power imports. Southern Africa is facing a drought caused by the El Nino weather pattern, which is expected to bring more drought to already-parched countries, including Zimbabwe, affecting Kariba hydro station which produces half of the nation's electricity. Power supply at Kariba would be cut further to 275 megawatts (MW) in 2016 due to low water levels after falling by a third to 475 MW in August, state-owned Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) said in a statement. ZETDC is currently supplying 1,194 MW, half Zimbabwe's peak demand, from both hydro and coal power generation. Electricity shortages have forced local industries to use costly diesel generators to keep operations running and have been blamed for keeping away potential investors, analysts say. The ZETDC said it had requested the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority to allow it to raise the electricity tariff from 9.86 cents per kilowatt-hour to import power to power the economy, but did not say how much the increase would be. "The purpose of the proposed tariff increase is to cover the increased costs of emergency power and additional imports in order to maintain supply at current levels and avoid shrinking the economy," ZETDC said. The power regulator said it would consult industry, mines and residents before making a decision on the tariff request. Zimbabwe's economy is struggling to emerge from a catastrophic recession between 1999-2008 and is seen struggling next year due to low commodity prices and a forecast of poor rainfall that could hit the agriculture sector. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by James Macharia)