Tanzania is hoping to use its gas reserves to generate electricity and reduce its reliance on hydropower, a reliance that has seen the country experience its worst power crisis in the past few months.
The country has experienced incessant power shortages after its hydropower plants were shut down due to low water levels in the dams. The region’s second largest economy depends on hydroelectricity generation to supply more than 35 per cent of its grid but the reducing water levels have seen this drop to below 20 per cent.
According to Felchesmi Mramba, managing director of the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco), electricity generated from gas is reliable and will eventually reduce the cost of power in the country.
“This is a reliable form of power generation that is also less costly. Currently it costs US cents 40-45 for plants using oil to generate electricity, while we are seeing plants that use electricity generated from gas pay about US cents 9-10 per kilowatt hour,” said Mr Mramba.
Tanzania currently uses 870MW but it only generates 105MW, leaving the country reeling from an electricity crisis that its gas resources cannot bridge.
“The current power rationing in the country is due to a more than 80 per cent drop in hydropower generation. The highest capacity of hydropower generation is 560MW but currently we can only manage 105MW,” Tanesco said in a statement.
The country has been looking to utilise its vast natural gas resources. However, Tanesco data shows a drop in electricity generated from gas from 340MW to 260MW in the past six months. Tanzania has an installed capacity of 1,570MW, with more than a third or 560MW being hydropower.
“Pan Africa Company has finished the repairs of well numbers SS9 and SS5. We expect electricity generated from gas to increase by more than 270MW in the next two months,” Tanesco said.
“In due course, we will have reliable electricity, with hydro-power as the supplement,” said Mr Mramba.
Tanesco has been importing power from Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, but in the past four months both Uganda and Zambia have also experienced power generation challenges.
Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that as at September, Kenya had sold more than 1.6 million kWh of power to Tanzania. In 2014, the county imported an average of 50 million kWh of power, with the majority coming from Zambia.
According to KNBS, Tanzania stopped exporting power to Kenya in November last year and scaled up its imports.
The country’s power shortages have been compounded by Zambia’s own power issues as the water levels in Lake Kariba — the world’s largest man-made reservoir — have fallen drastically. This saw a 30 per cent drop in production from the facility, which generates 1,830 Megawatts of power at full capacity.
In September, Tanzania’s former president Jakaya Kikwete launched a $1.33 billion project to pipe natural gas to Dar es Salaam and help relieve chronic power shortages in the city.
Currently, only 40 per cent of Tanzanians are connected to electricity. The government plans to increase the number of people connected to the grid to more than 50 per cent by 2025.