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Tanzania moves toward fossil fuels as hydro power fails


Dar es Salaam – Tanzania is struggling to produce enough electricity – and is moving toward using more fossil fuels to make up the shortfall, Tanesco – the state-run power utility firm, said on Tuesday.

Felchesmi Mramba, Tanesco’s Managing Director, said the shortfall was due to drought, which had continued to cripple its hydro power plants.

“The main challenge we have been facing is over reliance on hydro power as the major source of electricity, which is hard to maintain due to unpredictable weather,” said Mramba.

Hydro power plants normally produce about 35 per cent of Tanzania’s electricity needs, with gas and oil plants making up most of the difference.
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But as demand grows and water shortages hit hydro power production, Tanesco is investing in more fossil fuel plants to maintain its electricity supply.

In October, the east African nation was forced to shut down its main hydro power facility for nearly a month because the water level was too low to run the turbines, officials said.

In December, the country’s hydro power plants, which can produce as much as 561 megawatts of power, generated only 110 megawatts, according to Tanesco.

Agnes Mwakaje, a climate change expert at the Institute of Resources Assessment at the University of Dar es Salaam, said Tanzania had mostly failed to tap it’s potential from geothermal, solar and wind.

However, Sospeter Muhongo, Tanzania’s Minister for Energy and Minerals, said the government was keen to invest in alternative power production to meet the hydro power shortfall.

Mtera and Kidatu hydro power dams on the Great Ruaha River at one point shut down for three weeks because water levels fell below the minimum required, officials said.

“The water level in most of our hydro power dams is not sufficient to generate electricity, yet there’s nothing we can do other than waiting for the rains to come,” Mramba, said.

“We are hoping to reduce hydro power dependence to 15 per cent once our gas-fired plants become fully operational.”

Tanzania’s government in 2014 launched an electricity supply “roadmap” that aimed to boost generating capacity from about 1,590 megawatts to 10,800 megawatts in a decade. (Reuters/NAN)

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