Zambia's power supply deficit worsens as water levels sink

FILE PHOTO: The Victoria Falls is seen from the air following a prolonged drought from the Zimbabwean side at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, December 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia’s electricity supply shortage increased to 810 megawatts (MW) in November from around 750 MW in September, state power firm Zesco said on Thursday, adding it would quickly commission new power plants to plug the gap.

Africa’s no.2 copper producer has seen electricity supply dwindle due to low water levels at hydropower dams as a severe drought sweeps through southern Africa for the second time in less than five years, largely due to a prolonged dry season caused by climate change.

Zambia and neighbor Zimbabwe have suffered power cuts due to their heavy reliance on hydropower from plants at the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi river, upstream of the famous Victoria Falls waterfalls, which water authorities warn is drying fast.

In September Zambia said it would import 300 MW of power from South Africa’s Eskom, which itself is struggling with generation problems and has this week implemented power cuts, putting imports under pressure.

At a briefing on Thursday state utility, Zesco’s director of strategy Patrick Mwila said the firm expected to add more than 700 MW to the grid by the end of next year after commissioning new power plants.

“We have reached a level where we have exhausted our water allocation at Kariba dam,” Mwila said.

Reporting by Chris Mfula; writing by Mfuneko Toyana; editing by Jason Neely and Chizu Nomiyama