June 25, 2011 / 3:12 PM / 8 years ago

Tanzania announces indefinite power outages

* Drought, fuel shortage hits power generation

* Nation faces daily 12-hour electricity cuts

DAR ES SALAAM, June 25 (Reuters) - Tanzania’s state-run power company has announced daily 12-hour power cuts for an unspecified period because of low water levels at hydropower dams and a shortage of fuel for thermal power generation.

East Africa’s second largest economy has been plagued by frequent power-outages since December.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its 2011 growth forecast for Tanzania to 6 percent from 7.2 percent in March, saying frequent power outages would hurt output while food and fuel prices could push inflation higher.

The latest round of power cuts caused by a national shortfall of 200 megawatts (MW) come after a deficit of natural gas supply in May led to rolling 16-hour power blackouts.

“The Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO) regrets to inform its customers ... that it has been forced to extend power rationing to all regions connected to the national grid, including Zanzibar,” the company said in a statement seen by Reuters on Saturday.

The utility did not say when the power rationing would end.

TANESCO said water levels at the country’s main hydroelectric dams were almost depleted, leading to a reduction in power generation.

“By June 22, the water level at Mtera dam was only 690.88 metres above sea level ... the minimum level at the dam, which will not allow power generation, is 690 metres above sea level,” said the statement.

Tanzania depends heavily on hydropower for energy and experiences frequent power shortages during dry seasons.

TANESCO said the government will import heavy fuel oil for a privately-owned power plant that currently generates just 10-megawatts against its installed capacity of 100 MW.

Dollar demand from oil importers is one of the factors that helped drive the Tanzanian shilling to a record low against the dollar this month.

Tanzania has energy demand close to 900 MW capacity, but produces less than 800 MW.

The government has floated tenders inviting independent power producers to set up emergency power plants this year to generate an additional 260 MW of power.

The country’s five-year development plan targets generation of more than 2,700-megawatts by 2015/16.

(Editing by David Clarke and Toby Chopra)

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