Zambia to develop $2bn solar projects with UAE as country faces rolling blackouts

By Jaysim Hanspal
Posted on Wednesday, 18 January 2023 16:18

Signing of MOU between Zambia and UAE to invest in the energy sector on 17 January 2023 (photo: @HHichilema)

On Tuesday, Zambia's state-owned power company Zesco signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates' renewable energy company Masdar to develop solar projects worth $2bn.

The two countries signed a Joint Development Agreement marking a significant move towards sustainable energy for Zambia.

The venture will create a joint project to facilitate investment in Zambia’s renewable energy, President Hakainde Hichilema announced in a statement.

“Once completed, the projects will result in an additional 2,000MW of electricity in the country within the next few years,” he added, with construction done in phases, starting with the installation of 500MW.

“This is not a loan but a capital injection in which the Zambian people, through Zesco, will be partners in shareholding,” he said.

The project will increase the country’s generation base by more than half.

Rolling blackouts

Zambia has been rationing electricity supply following a significant drop in water levels in Lake Kariba in the south, threatening the hydropower generation that contributes to more than 75% of the country’s power output.

Last week levels in the lake were down to 1.66% of usable storage for the Kariba North Bank Power Station in Zambia and the Kariba South Bank Power Station on the Zimbabwean side of the lake, said the Zambezi River Authority, which manages the dam. The water levels fell due to reduced inflows from the Zambezi river and heavy use by power generation companies in both Zimbabwe and Zambia.

The Kariba Dam, on the border with Zimbabwe, is used by both countries to generate hydropower which makes up more than 75% of electricity generation. The lower water levels have led to the country suffering rolling blackouts lasting up to 12 hours a day.

The chairman of Zesco previously announced the country started rationing electricity supply to mining firms following reduced power generation, doubling the number of hours it cut supply to domestic customers to 12 hours from six hours daily.

Chairman Vickson Ncube said power rationing is expected to be reduced by the middle of next month as water levels increased and full generation is likely to resume in March.

Green energy

Last week seven British companies announced they are investing $2bn in renewable energy projects in the country.

British High Commissioner to Zambia Nicholas Woolley said the British companies are currently conducting feasibility studies and applying for regulatory approvals before they can start projects.

This influx of rumoured funding only means good things for Zambia’s green energy future.

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