THE African Development Bank (AfDB) has noted that Zambia’s Itezhi-Tezhi Hydropower Dam, has increased the country’s power generation capacity by 7.5 percent, supplying an extra 50,000 people with electricity.
The $375 million Itezhi-Tezhi hydroelectric generating station became operational in 2016. The plant has a 120-megawatt capacity and is the fruit of the first public-private partnership project in the Zambian energy sector.
Its primary objective has been to produce enough power to end the crippling daily blackouts and meet consumer needs of the country’s 17 million inhabitants.
In the first quarter of 2018, and for the first time in its history, Zambia stopped importing electricity from neighbouring countries such as Mozambique.
As far back as September 2017, national operator Zesco’s head of power transmission, Webster Musonda, told Ecofin agency: ‘Zambia’s power generation capacity has improved and will now be able to largely meet its energy needs. Overall, we will be able to meet demand and routine energy imports will cease […] but we will continue to import energy to meet occasional peaks in demand.’
The next step for the government includes plans for an energy surplus over the next two years. To meet this goal, it is exploring renewable energy, such as solar power.
The country’s new hydropower stations at the Musonda, Lusawaki and Kafue Gorge dams are important developments and in September 2018 the government inaugurated a 50MW power plant at a cost of $60 million.
An even more ambitious programme is underway, involving the construction of mini solar plants with an eventual overall capacity of 600MW at an estimated cost of $1.2bn.
Additional funding has been provided by international donors including the Netherlands Development Finance Company, the Development Bank of South Africa and Proparco France.
The Bank’s portfolio in Zambia currently includes 23 ongoing projects, amounting to an investment of one billion dollars, in three main sectors: transport, water and sanitation and agriculture.
A strong partnership with Zimbabwe has been the key to Zambia’s success. The two southern African neighbours are working on a major energy project on the Zambezi River, which marks their common border. The 2,750km long river is the fourth-largest on the continent.
The project, which has a projected output of at least 2,400MW, is to be built upstream of the Kariba dam, close to the famous Victoria Falls, at a cost of $3bn.
Electricity output will be shared equally between Zambia and Zimbabwe, with excess production sold on to other member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SACD), according to the project’s initiators.