Zambia's Zesco, Chinese firm sign $548 mln solar power contracts

LUSAKA, May 21 (Reuters) - Zambia’s state-owned electricity company Zesco Ltd has signed contracts worth $548 million with Power China to develop three solar power plants that will add 600 megawatts (MW) to the national grid, the company said in a statement.

The three contracts are a step towards diversifying renewable energy for Zambia, which relies heavily on hydropower and has faced electricity shortages partly because of droughts.

“The three-grid solar PV projects will have a capacity of 200 MW each,” Zesco Managing Director Victor Mundende said in the statement. He added the power plants would boost access to electricity and enhance industrial development, although he did not say when they would start generating.

Zambia’s power supply deficit has grown by nearly 20% since September, state power utility Zesco said in March, despite hefty price hikes and the government’s fast-tracking of support for green energy projects.

Zesco’s Director of Corporate Services Patrick Mwila said in March the electricity deficit had grown to 810 megawatts (MW) from a 690 MW gap in September last year. (Reporting by Chris Mfula; editing by Barbara Lewis)