Zambians hit by massive load-shedding from 1 June as Kariba water levels decline
Zambian State-owned power utility ZESCO says it will restrict power supply to many customers from June 1 because of low water levels in hydroelectric dams.
“In view of the power deficit, Zesco Ltd. intends to commence load management to restrict supply,” the company said in a notice dated May 17.
ZESCO said it will meet stakeholders this week to brief them on the deficit, according to the notice.
Zambia is grappling with a mounting debt burden, a currency that’s the world’s second-worst performer this year, and tensions with the mining sector it relies on for more than 70% of its foreign exchange earnings.
Copper producers including Vedanta Resources Ltd. and First Quantum Minerals Ltd. use more than half of Zambia’s electricity supply.
Water levels at the Kariba hydropower dam that straddles Zambia and Zimbabwe receded to 32% by May 20.
At the same time last year, it was 77% full and still rising.
Flows of the Zambezi river that feeds it are less than a quarter of what they were a year ago, and comparable to those in 1995-96, which were the lowest in 50 years of records, according to data from the two governments.
Zimbabwe also deepened power rationing this month partly because of the dropping water levels at Kariba, the biggest source of electricity for each of the neighboring countries.
Meanwhile, Mozambique’s Hydro Electrica de Cahorra Bassa has offered Zimbabwe and Zambia power imports in exchange for further reduced power generation by the two countries at their Kariba Dam hydro plants, state media reported Thursday.
Cahorra Bassa Dam is overflowing following recent cyclone-induced floods, and authorities in Mozambique favor having Zimbabwe and Zambia storing more water in Kariba Dam, which is upstream of Cahorra Bassa on the Zambezi River, to reduce inflows into the downstream dam and thus protect the infrastructure at Cahorra Bassa.
The offer for power comes at a time the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), which administers Lake Kariba, and the Zambezi River, which straddle the two countries, has instructed the two power utilities that generate power at Kariba Dam — Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) and ZESCO of Zambia — to cut power generation because of the 2018/19 El Nino induced drought hitting southern Africa.
The ZRA has rationed water consumption by the two companies to 358 MW for Zimbabwe and 392 MW for Zambia, resulting in the two countries’ introducing load shedding since May and causing distress in industries and among domestic users.
ZRA chief executive Munyaradzi Munodawafa told a delegation led by Zimbabwe’s new Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi recently that Mozambique had offered power to Zimbabwe and Zambia in lieu of reduced discharge from Lake Kariba.
The two countries may get as much as 500 MW without the parties involved having to exchange any or significant amounts of money for the deal.
“We should be going to discuss that issue. We should be going with ZESA, ZESCO and their transmission people so that we sit together and agree how much Hydro Cahora Bassa can give out without requesting for money and without also the transmission requesting for wheeling charges and all that,” he said. — Lusaka Times