Reducing the hydropower dependency: Solar investments required

According to Reuters, the Zambian government is pursuing investors for new solar projects in Zambia. The total amount of solar power requested is 200 MegaWatt, distributed over multiple projects. The search for proposals from potential developers is still taking place. The minimum size of each project will be 20 MW. On november 27th 2018, the Minister of Energy Matthew Nkhuwa outed this message at a conference. Besides this message, Lamberto Dai Pra, the head of Africa, Asia and Oceania at Enel Green Power, stated the importance of investing in other energy sources besides hydropower.

Droughts and hydropower

The urge for other renewable energy sources aside from hydropower is the mayor drought from 2016 due to el Nino. Hydropower is power generated by the movement of water. Since Zambia relies on hydropower for 95 percent of their total power supply, a drought is a severe problem to the energy supply. The largest amount of energy comes from Lake Kariba, called the Kariba Dam. This dam provides the country with 40 percent of their power demand. If the water levels drop, the power generator in the dam could stop working. In 2016 the water level dropped to 13 percent of the usual capacity.

Improving the dam

Initiatives to improve the water supply, and therefore the power generation, already started at the Kariba Dam. Most of these improvements were the consequences of an almost collapse of the dam in 2015. The dam showed cracks and other hazards due to antiquity of the dam and water erosion. In March 2016, the first repairments took off. The last round of repairs started just a view month ago, in March 2018, and finished in 2025.

Last year the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) for the first time engaged in the water supply problems of the dam. Together with the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), they worked on several improvements of the dam. Just a couple of months ago, as a result of allocation of water and pumps, all eight generators were running. Two of these eight pumps were newly installed and part of the repairments in March 2018. Due to higher output of water, the allocation resulted in more water in the dam itself. This results in a capacity rise from 750MW to 1050MW.

Solar as a solution

There are several alarming reports on the reliance of Zambia on hydrogenic power. For example, this report by the IPCC showed how climate change will, with high confidence, amplify the water shortage. Another research concluded the hydropower dependency on rainfall to be a problem now and in the future. With the increasing demand on electricity in Zambia, a solution is needed. The Zambian government is not the only one to see solar as a solution. In another report by the IPCC, solar is the renewable energy source with the highest technical potential. Along with all the investments made in solar, for example 11.75 million by the European Investment Bank, the inquiry for solar by the government seems to be the legitimate call.


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Read the full Reuters article here.