Power utility ZESCO Limited says there will be no load shedding in Zambia on account of the record low water levels at the Kariba Dam due to the country’s already existing generation capacity that can provide consistent power to customers.
Last week, the Zambezi River Authority disclosed that water levels at the Kariba Dam are plunging to record-low levels at 10.9 per cent usable water last week, compared to 34.1 per cent a year ago, depicting a threat to hydro-electricity production for Zambia and Zimbabwe, statistics that prompted Energy Expert Boniface Zulu to project an imminent but minimal load-shedding.
But speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing Zambia International Mining and Energy Conference and Exhibition-ZIMEC in Kitwe, ZESCO Limited Board Chairperson Vickson N`cube tells Phoenix News that the power utility is not panicking about the situation because the country no longer relies on Kariba dam alone and has the cushion of the 750 MW Kafue Gorge Lower Power Station that will be fully operational at the end of this month.
And Mr N’cube says Zambia needs a multi-pronged approach towards the much-fancied sustainable energy mix arguing that while solar is a good renewable energy, estimates show that every 1 MW of solar power requires about 1 hectare of land, which kills enough trees thereby affecting the rain cycle and subsequently water levels in rivers and dams.
Meanwhile, Mr N’cube has declared that the power utility is ready to handle the anticipated higher power needs of the country resulting from the envisaged 3 million tons of annual copper production.
Early in the week, Water levels at the Kariba dam are plunging toward record lows, threatening hydroelectricity production for Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The dam had 10.9% of usable storage this week, compared with 34.1% a year ago, according to data from the Zambezi River Authority.
Levels are close to those reached in the 1995/96 season, the lowest recorded since the 128-meter (420 feet) high dam was completed in 1959.
While inflows from the Zambezi river were lower than the long-term mean in the past rainy season, the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe have both built extra hydropower turbines at Kariba in the past decade, which release more water downstream.
Normally, water levels start rising in January.
“Appropriate measures to prevent a complete depletion of the scarce water in the Kariba reservoir have been taken with the power utilities,” the Zambezi River Authority, which manages the dam on behalf of Zambia and Zimbabwe, said in an emailed response to questions.
“Considering the rainfall forecast for the forthcoming season of normal-to-above normal, the authority has optimized the water allocation for 2023.”
Kariba has a generation capacity of 2,130 megawatts split between Zambia and Zimbabwe, which are separated by the Zambezi. The low levels could exacerbate a power shortage in Zimbabwe, which is currently generating 750 megawatts at the dam, until a coal-power plant at Hwange adds 300 megawatts — due next month.
Zambia has reduced its dependence on Kariba through the commissioning of the 750-megawatt Kafue Gorge Lower hydropower dam.