Zambia Power Cuts Rise as Copper Producer’s Dam Levels Fall

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Zambia will probably cut power generation by more than a quarter as poor rainfall causes dam levels to drop in Africa’s second-biggest copper producer, Mines, Energy and Water Development Deputy Minister Charles Zulu said.

The country may reduce power supply by as much as 600 megawatts from about 2,200 megawatts, he said Tuesday by phone. While mining companies will be affected the state-owned power utility, Zesco Ltd., hasn’t decided by how much they will need to decrease their usage, Zulu said.

“According to Zesco, all customers have to contribute to this,” he said.

Zambia relies on hydropower for more than 90 percent of its electricity and water levels have declined at the Lake Kariba and Kafue Gorge plants, the source of three-quarters of that supply. Reservoir levels fell to about half capacity at the Kariba dam by April 26, according to the Zambezi River Authority’s website. Glencore Plc and First Quantum Minerals Ltd. are among mine operators that use more than half the southern African nation’s power.

The country has already cut electricity supplies by 300 megawatts and will probably double this gradually over 2015, Zulu said. Peak demand is 1,900 megawatts to 2,000 megawatts, he said.

“Obviously, demand is now higher, and load shedding will increase,” Zulu said, using a local term for rolling blackouts.

Zambia asked mining companies to cut their power use by 10 percent in January 2013 as demand outstripped supply, Reuters reported at the time.

Supplies will increase from the end of the year, when two new plants are scheduled to start producing, Zulu said. The 120-megawatt Itezhi Tezhi hydropower plant will start producing power in October, while electricity generation at the 300-megawatt Maamba coal-fired power station will begin in December, he said.

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