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Zambia’s ZESCO Announces A Daily 6-Hour Load Shedding Due To Low Water Levels In Kariba Dam

Zambia’s Energy Minister Peter Kapala has announced that ZESCO, the local power utility, will commence load shedding on 15th December 2022 due to the low water levels in the Kariba dam.

Kapala said the water levels in Kariba dam have been reducing on account of low inflows from the Zambezi river and over-utilisation of water to sustain power generation has also worsened the situation.

The Minister said load management will be undertaken for a period of four months aimed at rationing water in the dam in order to avoid a complete shutdown, Lusaka Times reported.

He said as of 28th November 2022, the water levels were at 4.1 per cent of usable water storage saying this threatens power generation for both Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Delivering a ministerial statement in Parliament on the 2nd of December 2022, Kapala said:

ZESCO will implement a load management regime aimed at rationing power generation at the Kariba Complex to avoid a complete shutdown. This will be done with the view to minimize the impact on key economic sectors as well as preservation of the integrity of generation units at the Kariba Complex.

We anticipate that based on the water levels, this will translate into a load management regime starting on 15th December 2022 of up to a maximum of six (6) hours daily until the water levels improve.

He said the proposed measures will be phased and revisited from time to time over the next four months in order to ensure the security of the electricity supply and mitigate the impact on the economy.

Kapala spoke after the Zambezi River Authority had directed Zimbabwe Power Company to immediately ensure that Power generation activities at the South Bank Power Station are reduced to a maximum of 300MW instead of 600MW.

ZESCO will reduce generation at Kariba North Bank Power Station to a maximum of 800MW until further review of the substantive Hydrological outlook at lake Kariba.

His remarks come barely days after a Zambian politician and member of the ruling United Party for National Development (UPND) Joseph Kalimbwe suggested that Zimbabwean authorities were lying about a decrease in water levels in Kariba Dam.

In a statement earlier posted by Pindula News, Kalimbwe said: 

It’s rain season, the Kariba Dam is full. We have full electricity generation this side – perhaps with some issues in certain areas. But unless there is another Kariba, I don’t see why others are claiming and telling their people that the dam is empty!!!

I trust the science, if you say the Zambezi river is empty in August or October, I will understand. If you say it’s empty in December – during rain season – you are peddling political lies !!!

Some Context:

The Kariba Lake is designed to operate between 475.50m and 488.50m of water above sea level (asl) for purposes of hydropower generation. 

For the year 2022, ZRA allocated a combined total of 45 Billion Cubic Meters of water to ZESCO and ZPC for power generation at the Kariba Complex. The allocation was to be shared equally between ZESCO and ZPC with each utility to utilize 22.5 Billion Cubic Meters of water respectively for the year 2022.

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