Editor's Comment

Zesco should consider alternative power sources

THAT water levels in Kariba Dam have continued falling is a sign of the hard times coming ahead.
The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), which manages Kariba Dam for Zambia and Zimbabwe, says water levels are now getting close to a record low reached in 1995, when the country had one of its worst droughts.
The drastic drop in water levels in the dam may compel ZRA to close the dam’s power generation facility.
The low level of water in the dam is as a result of low rainfall experienced last season.
The Kariba Dam is the country’s main reservoir for electricity generation.
It is also a source of livelihood for communities who live around it as they subside on fishing. A lot of fish-related industries have been spawned around the world’s largest man-made lake.
It is also a tourist attraction.
This time last year, the dam had about 84 percent of storage capacity, but now it only has 22 percent, 3.16m above the minimum operating level.
Last year this time around, the dam was at 11 metres.
Out of the allocated 34 billion cubic metres to the power stations on both sides of the border, only 8.6 billion cubic metres is remaining to last up to December.
Zambia, like Zimbabwe, depends heavily on the power generated from Kariba Dam to service its industries.
The installed capacity at Kariba is 1,080 megawatts but currently only 368MW is being generated.
The state of affairs at Kariba means that Zesco may have to increase its load maintenance from the current four hours to about 10 hours day.
This will be a bitter pill to swallow by electricity consumers at both domestic and industrial levels.
These are undoubtedly desperate situations which require urgent interventions to keep the wheels of the economy running.
Options to mitigate power outages arising from the rapidly declining water levels may include importing power from South Africa and Mozambique.
This may be inevitable to mitigate the impact on industries, the health and education sectors, including the construction sector.
Importing power would see electricity tariffs going up because Government has to pass on the cost to the consumers.
While Zesco is making plans on how to respond to the reducing water levels at Kariba, industrial and domestic consumers ought to be looking outside the box, too.
Installing solar energy is the way to go to avoid being disappointed. Those who can afford gensets may also go ahead to procure.
What is happening at Kariba is yet another lesson, that while the country has potential to generate enough power from the current and planned hydro-electricity plants, it may not be as reliable as the country would want it to be because of its vulnerability to climate change.
Currently, there are expansion works at Kafue Gorge through a Kafue Gorge Lower project which will add 750 MW to the current installed capacity of 990MW, bringing the total to 1,750 MW.
Feasibility studies on the construction of the Batoka Gorge Power Station were completed some two years ago and financiers were identified.
It is going to be a joint project between the government of Zambia and that of Zimbabwe with a total installed capacity of 2,400MW.
Despite all these ongoing and planned projects, Zesco will do well to look outside the box, and renewable energy is the way go.
Zambia has potential to generate power from several sources such as solar, wind and nuclear, among others.
So the renewable energy department at Zesco should continue looking at other sources of energy like solar and other green and clean energy.
It is the way to go.

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