Drought-affected Zambia to increase power cuts

LUSAKA – Zambia state power utility Zesco Ltd will make power cuts after drought hit the nation and lowered the water levels at its hydro power station.

The power generation capacity in Africa’s No.2 producer of copper stands at 2,200 megawatts (MW), with the bulk of the electricity produced from hydropower. Supply is however often erratic, affecting mining in the southern African nation.

“Power generation at Kariba North Bank power station has been reduced to 305 megawatts from 540 megawatts,” Zesco spokeswoman Bessie Banda said.

“The idea is for us to conserve water and continue generating power until the next rainy season.”
The government would procure emergency power from September to 2016, and Zesco has been importing electricity from Mozambique and the Southern African Power Pool, Banda said. She did not say when emergency power procurement would end in 2016.

Zambia’s largest supplier of power to mines, Copperbelt Energy Corp, is also experiencing severe power shortages and has had to limit electricity supply to big mining firms including First Quantum Minerals, Vedanta Resources, Glencore.

First Quantum last month cut thousands of jobs after the reduction in power supply curbed production.

Most countries in southern Africa, including South Africa, Botswana and Zambia, are also grappling with power supply shortages of their own.

Zimbabwe’s power utility said on Tuesday its two biggest electricity generation plants will start annual routine maintenance on Tuesday, leading to even deeper power cuts in the southern African nation.

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