Harnessing the power of waterfalls
Our Commitment: US$5m
The nation is experiencing the most challenging energy shortage since the founding of this great nation … power rationing due to reduced water levels in our power-generation dams has impacted severely on the lives of our people.
His Excellency Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of Republic of Zambia, 2015
In 2015 ongoing drought and technical issues reduced the output of Zambia’s largest hydropower plant, the Kariba Dam, contributing to power shortages. Power rationing affected businesses and households across the country. In August, the mining industry was asked to cut demand by up to 30% and small businesses reportedly had to cut production and shed jobs in response to power disruptions. The Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) has been swift to respond; temporarily increasing energy imports, reviewing tariffs and encouraging greater energy efficiency. Climate vulnerability, coupled with an electrification rate of just 22.1% and a steadily rising demand for power, has made increasing installed generation capacity a long term national priority.
Zambia has around 40% of all water resource within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and hydropower accounts for 2,257MW of the country’s installed capacity; however Zambia still has untapped hydropower potential of around 6,000MW. Overreliance upon a few large hydropower plants, such as the Kariba Dam which Zambia shares with Zimbabwe, can put pressure on the integrity of dam infrastructure and increase systemic vulnerability to shocks such as drought. The GRZ has therefore committed to diversifying their existing hydro portfolio with smaller scale and run-of-river hydro. This approach will facilitate sustainable management of infrastructure and river flows while also mitigating the effects of regional variances in rainfall. The GRZ has also committed to upgrading existing hydro infrastructure and to pursuing alternative energy initiatives. Collectively these commitments will help improve the resilience of Zambia’s energy system.
The Western Power project will develop a 180MW run-of-river hydroelectric power plant at Ngonye Falls on the Zambezi River. The project will divert water from the river’s left channel into a 3km canal served by a partly-underground plant facility. The hydro plant will deliver at least 300GWh per year of clean, renewable energy to Zambia’s national grid. The project will connect to a new 110km 220kV transmission line to Sesheke, at the border with Namibia. This new line will free-up the existing 66kV line so it could distribute electricity to communities in the Western Province.
Zambia’s Western Province has yet to unlock the potential of its fast flowing Zambezi River and natural falls. Developing run-of-river hydro in the region will increase national installed capacity; meeting the increasing demand for power, improving the stability of the grid network and helping to stimulate socio-economic development locally.