Low Kariba levels hit Zambia hard

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Lusaka – Zambia’s Energy Minister Matthew Nkhuwa says low dam levels in Kariba mean the country may experience electricity rationing until March 2021.

The minister this week said the dam 60-year-old manmade dam – shared with Zimbabwe - held just 32 percent of its capacity of usable water, meaning generation at the hydropower station would remain depressed for months to come.

Zambia’s power utility Zesco had projected to ease electricity cuts by December 2020 after commissioning the first phase of the 750MW Kafue Gorge Lower (KGL) Hydropower Plant, but with Kariba Dam unable to generate as anticipated the target will not be met.

The country is generating about 1,846MW (1,400MW from Zesco and 446MW from independent power producers), resulting in a deficit of 810MW. Around 55 percent of the electricity goes to mines.

About 31 percent of the country’s population has access to electricity, while four percent of rural areas are electrified.

Zambia will be banking on the coming on-stream of the US$2,2 billion KGL which should add 150MW per stage in four phases from September 2020 to January 2021.

The plant was built with a loan facilitated by Kenya’s Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation and China’s Eximbank. Zambia’s power utility Zesco was the project lead.

Zesa senior corporate affairs manager Mr John Kunda said the utility’s aim was to be a major player in the regional energy matrix by 2025 via its partnerships with EPCs such as China Sino Hydro, with whom it is developing other electricity plants.

Mr Kunda recently told The Southern Times that, “We are looking at the end of October to commission the first (150MW) machine and this will run concurrently until January when we expect to switch on the fourth machine.

The KGL hydroelectric power station lies on the banks of the Kafue River in the Southern Chikankata district, 90km from the capital Lusaka.

It is Zambia’s first major energy investment funded through a public-private partnership model.

The plant is located 17,3km downstream of the existing Kafue Gorge Upper (KGU) hydropower station.

The project includes construction of a 139m high concrete face rockfill dam with a crest width between 8m and 10m and a length of approximately 378m.

The power transmission infrastructure at the hydroelectric station will include a 300V switchyard with a provision for two outgoing transmission lines to a new and existing 330/132kV substation.

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